Going for it: the psychology of job application

I took part yesterday in a good event organised jointly by the Chartered Management Institute and Women in Management, under the joint leadership of Ann Francke and Sandra Pollock.   Ann interviewed Cherie Blair.  Cherie referred to studies which show that if a woman thinks she can do only 90% of a job she tends not to go for it, whereas a man who thinks he can do 60% will not hesitate.  I don’t know of any research on this, but  from anecdotal conversations (for instance with recruitment agencies) had formulated something very similar, as part of the third PP factor: psychology/self-confidence.  My rule-of-thumb is that if men think they can do 70% of a job they’ll see themselves as qualified for it;  if women think they can’t do 30% they won’t.    It would be good to know if anyone has evidence on this.

Similarly, Caroline Waters of BT produced a telling comment:  “When a woman fails the burden of failure is born by all the women in the organisation; whereas when a man fails it’s seen as a single case  of a bad hire.”  This falls under PP factor 1: discrimination.

Several of the panellists referred to the status of part-timers as a central issue.  Caroline and I agreed that it is time to get rid off the outdated distinction between full-time and part-time workers, which underpins so much of the prejudice against those who do not work ‘normal’ hours.   Research by Fiona Aldridge at NIACE shows that part-timers are half as likely as full-timers to get financial support for their training from their employer (Adult Learning, autumn 2012).   This makes it even more difficult for them to get on to (or back on to) a career ladder.  Is the solution, as Caroline suggests, simply to refer to work in a 24/7 context;  or do we need a different way of categorising workers?

  1. Paula Boddington

    Yes, I DO know of evidence of this, I have just come from a meeting at the Philosophy faculty at Oxford Uni where the equal ops people presented just such data, that far fewer women apply for academic jobs here but on average men apply if they fulfill about 60% of the selection criteria, women won’t apply unless they fulfill all. I can ask them for this evidence and send it to you = let me know if you’d like me to do so.
    best wishes, Paula

    1. TomSchuller

      Thanks Paula, and I would very much appreciate this evidence. all best, Tom

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