Employers less likely to hire women with high GPAs

Illustration by Brady Wheeler

A new study from Ohio State University (OSU) revealed high academic achievement for women in universities is not likely to be earning them any extra callbacks from employers — leading to them still having a tough time finding a career after graduating.

The study, titled “The Mark of a Woman’s Record: Gender and Academic Performance in Hiring,” looked at the GPA performance of both men and women and how that informs the career-building months that follow graduation.

Natasha Quadlin, a social inequality, education and gender assistant professor at OSU, conducted the study and authored the report.

It indicated while women do benefit from a moderate performance, a high performance actually penalizes them in terms of job interview callbacks, with equally high-performing men getting callbacks versus women at a rate of 2-to-1.

“Little research has assessed whether academic performance benefits women outside of schools,” said Quadlin in the report. “That is, we have yet to understand whether academic performance pays off for women once they leave school, or if the time and effort women spend trying to enhance their academic performance simply does not improve their outcomes in other life domains.”

The study was published in the April 2018 edition of the American Sociological Review.

In it, Quadlin pointed out the irony of the results, as the common trend has been higher and higher academic performance for girls and women all throughout grade school, high school and into college. She states in her study that some go as far to call the education system in the United States “feminized” for promoting qualities more common in women than men.

NAU in particular has seen that feminization in its gender breakdown. Females students outnumber male students at a rate of about 1.57-to-1, according to the website College Factual. NAU’s 58.9 percent makeup of women towers over UA’s 51.4 percent and ASU’s 43.3 percent the website reported.

With more women than ever studying at universities, Quadlin looked to see if their hard work is paying off.

“Because gender carries its own independent assumptions about job performance, employers may interpret — and reward — men’s and women’s achievement very differently,” Quadlin said in the study.

The study recognized the disparity between the already-gendered areas of education and the ease of job attainment.

For instance, men are more likely to enroll in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, which are more likely to lead to guarantee a job. Consequently, Quadlin only compared job outcomes between genders within the same field in her study.

One section of the study looked at resumes within three different fields — English, mathematics and business — to see how gender and GPA had an effect on job callbacks. These fields were selected since English is female-dominate, mathematics is male-dominated and business is sex-neutral. The study profiled 2,106 resumes and their authors.

Only the gender of the applicant, their GPA and field of study were varied. Everything else, from part-time work, internships and cover letter were kept consistent.

When only looking at gender separate from GPA and field of study, men received slightly more callbacks than women. 14 percent of men made it to the next level of their career building, while only 11.9 percent of women did. Quadlin called these results not significantly different.

A GPA performance analysis told a different story.

Qualdin found men having a GPA in the C+ to B- range had such a high callback rate that it essentially rendered academic achievement among these men inconsequential. Whether men had a high GPA or a mediocre GPA, they did not experience any major change in their chances of receiving a callback.

Women had a much different experience in receiving callbacks when their GPA was taken into consideration.

There was a tangible increase in their callbacks as their GPA rose until at the highest range, A- and above, there was a steep drop-off. Once women achieve high academic excellence, it lowered their chances of getting callbacks to the levels of women in the C+ to B- GPA range.

These findings were even more pronounced when focusing on the field of mathematics. Not only was it the only major where higher GPA had an effect on callbacks for men, but men in the A- to A range were three times more likely to receive a callback than women in the same range.

Twenty-four percent of men received callbacks while only 8 percent of women got them.

“This may be because men who excel in math are viewed as exceedingly competent, whereas men who excel in English or business are not as well regarded,” Quadlin said in her study. “It suggests that high-achieving women were most readily penalized when they reported a major in math.”

High-achieving men in math were the group most likely to receive a callback among all fields, GPA, success and genders. Given that only 24 percent of them received callbacks, that number is still fairly low overall.

Quadlin held an additional survey to further investigate why women were receiving fewer callbacks than their male counterparts. She used it to determine that they were not because high academic achieving women are looked at as overqualified.

“The more plausible explanations are less complimentary toward women’s achievement,” Quadlin said in the report.

She concluded gendered stereotypes are what is allowing these penalties to exist, and change needs to be made to stop the entry-level job market from punishing women.

Kathleen Ferraro, NAU sociology professor specializing in gender studies, said the study was discouraging to her. With the push for more women in STEM fields, she was disappointed to discover women were being penalized for their performance.

“It would be interesting to see as more and more women enter into these fields, if these prejudices continue on. I would think not,” said Ferraro.

She agreed with Quadlin’s main point, that this issue stems from stereotypes that exist within society.

“Men are hired for their skills and women are hired for their personalities, and the stigma that if a woman is a high achiever, she’s probably a b---h or something. That’s really going to take a whole cultural transformation to eliminate that stereotype,” Ferraro said.

Ferraro reasserted that, despite this study, female students should still strive for academic excellence. She wanted students, no matter what gender, to prioritize doing well in school.

“We’ve come a long way in 30 years,” Ferraro said, “and hopefully your generation can buck these long-standing problems.”