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Study: Employee Bias Against Women Affects Hiring Decisions

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People in charge of hiring are heavily influenced by the prejudices of their employees – even if they’re not biased themselves. A new study from researchers at Yale and NYU shows that could have an outsized effect on job-seeking women.

“People sometimes discriminate against women not because they’re prejudiced against women, but because they think that other people are prejudiced against women,” said Andrea Vial, a former Yale researcher, now with NYU, who worked on the study.

Vial and her colleagues had test subjects imagine they were hiring managers at large tech firms, and asked them whether they were more likely to hire a man or a woman – the twist was the prospective employee would have to work with a group of male employees who didn’t want any women on their team.

“People work together in teams, so if you think hiring a person from a particular group, in this case a woman, will not work well with existing company members then you’re unlikely to do that.”

Vial said their study shows this happens even if the person doing the hiring supports gender equality in the workplace.

She said many of those people later expressed guilt about their decision. And she said next she wants to study how people can use these feelings of guilt to encourage positive, diversity-enhancing behavior.