Working Paper by Roberto Fernandez
Past studies of gender and hierarchy document that the proportion of women declines as one looks up levels of the organizational hierarchy. With few exceptions, studies have conceived of the glass ceiling as reflecting disparities in internal promotion. Recent research has questioned this exclusive focus on internal processes, demonstrating that glass ceiling patterns can also be the result of external recruitment. Using data on people applying via the Internet to jobs at a medium sized high tech firm, we examine the external supply of candidates at the point of application to the firm. We find a glass ceiling pattern where the proportion of female applicants in the candidate pool declines as one looks up the four levels of the organizations hierarchy. Females tend to apply to lower level jobs than do males, and part of this difference explained by observed human capital factors of education, work, and management experience. Networks also contribute to this gendered pattern of job application, with male network referrals applying to higher level jobs than do female network referrals. However, networks do not account for the pattern: even among non-referred applicants, females apply to lower level jobs than do males. In addition to these gender differences at the point of application, we find evidence that demand-side screening processes contribute to the glass ceiling pattern: females are less likely than males to be offered jobs as one looks up levels of the firms hierarchy. These results suggest that it should not be assumed that the glass ceiling is the result of internal promotion processes: the same pattern can be produced by supply-side or demand-side processes operating in the hiring of externals.
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