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Male and female managers discriminate against female STEM candidates

Hiring managers of both sexes are more likely to pick male candidates over better qualified female counterparts for STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) roles, a study shows.

The University of Chicago Booth School of Science recently ran a laboratory experiment to recreate job interviews for women applying for science-related roles.

In the experiment, STEM employers were presented with no information other than a candidate's name and asked which candidates they were likely to hire. Both men and women were more likely to pick male candidates than female.

The employers were told that they would be hiring for a role that required strong arithmetic skills and the candidates were then given an arithmetic test. When the results were revealed the gender bias lessened but did not disappear.

The findings come as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) announced plans for colleges and universities to set and report on women's uptake in STEM subjects. They model is based on Lord Davies' report into getting women into the boardroom and looks at tackling both the gender bias and the skills shortage in the technology and engineering sectors.

CIB chief policy director Katja Hall said that more action is needed to meet these goals: "The growing skills vacuum is threatening the recovery, as demand from firms is outstripping supply. Highly skilled workers are essential for our growth sectors and it will be those young people with science and maths who will go on to become the engineers and new tech entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

"The Davies Review has had an impact in the boardroom, now we need a similar focus on the classroom. There is a shameful gender gap in science and technology so we need to transform society’s ideas of the choices women have in their careers.”

Free event

HR magazine is partnering with Business in the Community (BITC) for a panel debate on increasing diversity in STEM jobs, and how diversity leads to innovation. The panel is part of BITC's Responsible Business Week 2014 and takes place on Wednesday 2 April at 11am, at the Barbican in London.

HR magazine readers can find out more and register for free via this link.