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Published on Mar 22, 2021

Gunn Birkelund: Gender discrimination in hiring

Gunn Elisabeth Birkelund, PhD in Sociology is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo (since 1999). Her main publications cover labour market studies, social stratification and inequalities related to gender and ethnicity. Abstract Gender discrimination is often regarded as an important driver of women’s disadvantage in the labor market, yet earlier studies show mixed results. However, because different studies employ different research designs, the estimates of discrimination cannot be compared across countries. By conducting the first harmonized comparative field experiment on gender discrimination in hiring in six countries, we can directly compare employers’ callbacks to fictitious male and female applicants. The countries included vary in a number of key institutional, economic and cultural dimensions, yet we found no sign of discrimination against women. This cross-national finding constitutes an important and robust piece of evidence. Second, we found discrimination against men in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, and no discrimination against men in Norway and the US. However, when we pooled the data, we found no significant differences across countries. Our findings suggest that although employers operate in quite different institutional contexts, they regard female applicants as more suitable for jobs in female-dominated occupations, ceteris paribus, while we find no evidence that they regard male applicants as more suitable anywhere.

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