• Gabriel William Boente Lima Rafael Agrello Dias

Sex and Gender Analysis in Recruitment

First, it is relevant to distinguish sex and gender. According to Moser (1993), sex is related to the biological aspect; in other hand, gender is related to the social role of man and women, so, the concept of gender can be different in different societies. To Scott (1987), gender is a socially elaborated product. This idea can affect the organizations, especially on recruitment area, because the recruiters can be influenced by those concepts and social constructions.

The effects of sex and gender on recruitment have become subject of many studies since the 1970’s and 1980’s when women started to hold more important positions in organizations. In 1978, Bartol described the phenomenon of the lower percentages of women within the ranks of top management as the ‘’sex structuring of organizations’’ focusing on the transitions from one career stage to another higher position. Powell in 1987 studied specifically the recruitment process since it is the first transition in a career.

Powell considered the studies of Unger (1979) and Deaux (1984) which separated actual sex differences from gender stereotypes. According to Oppenheimer (1968), gender stereotypes may influence the aspirations and expectations of both male and female applicants and recruiters. It is through socialization that these expectations are transmitted to them. These stereotypes contribute to the labeling of occupations as women or men’s work.

Organizational and legal barriers are also an explanation since they can restrict or promote the recruitment of men or women (Reskin & Hartmann, 1986). Another explanation for the gender discrimination in the recruitment process is the applicant’s family responsibilities which affects recruiter’s decisions since there’s a notion that the woman’s place is home taking care of the family (Coser, 1981).

The last possible explanation according to Reskin and Hartmann is related to job opportunity and composition of the pool of job incumbents, since a minority member can be perceived as an exception by the recruiter who consequently can have higher expectations that can affect the evaluation.

In this studies the results were not an artifact of the type of subject population or recruitment situation (Powell,1987). The same author uses other research to make a bibliographical survey and analyze the effects of sex and gender on recruiters and applicants. The conclusions drawn were:

  • Gender differences were inconsistent in evaluations of candidate recruiters. There has been a tendency selection of male candidates for jobs that are historically dominated by men such as manager, trainee management or accountant. The female candidates were preferred in other cases and there were cases very independent of the gender.

  • Studies that considered in the selection of candidates: gender and qualification, the latter prevailed, had more important effect. Theories of discrimination in the labor market were inconclusive, as were theories based on gender stereotypes. Recruiters' beliefs in gender stereotypes can lead to discrimination in the selection of candidates.

  • The image of the ideal candidate and their training / curriculum similarly affects the tendency to create gender stereotypes that influence candidates' selections. This research should help identify types of individuals likely to exhibit gender bias in the evaluation of others. In short, studies besides concentrating on the candidate also pay attention to characteristics of the evaluator.

  • Research gaps: Studies that examine responses to combinations of gender, age, marital status, children, and job requirements seek to understand the effects that family responsibilities have on recruiters during selection.

  • There are labor market discriminations that predict that women will be devalued for certain jobs because current jobholders (the dominant gender for a given job) or customers prefer not to work with them. The possible motivation is a notion that women are less committed to jobs and more likely to break labor relations than men due to family responsibilities (eg, marital status, children, family profile)

  • The effects of the applicant's family responsibilities and the recruiters' beliefs about these responsibilities may depend on the distribution of marital status within the candidate list and the requirements of the position to be filled (characteristics, competencies, job training).

In spite of the original text (Powell, 1987) being relatively old, it has valuable conclusions that can be applied nowadays, such as: tendency of hiring men for “male” jobs, or creating stereotypes of the ideal candidate; those situations can occur easily today.

Since the concept of gender is dynamic, and because society changes over time, latterly the recruitment has other view and the organizations are trying to choose new employees based on their skills, minimizing the effect of sex and gender. Recruitment has a strategical importance for the company, so it is very important to be accurate.


BARTOL, K. M. (1978) The sex structuring of organizations: A search for possible causes. Academy of Management Review, 3, 805-815.

COSER, R. L. (1981) Where have all the women gone? Like the sediment of a good wine, they have sunk to the bottom. In C. F. Epstein & R. L. Coser (Eds.), Access to power: Crossnational studies of women and elites (pp. 16-33). London; Allen & Unwin.

DEAUX, K. (1984) From individual differences to social categories; Analysis of a decade's research on gender. American Psychologist, 39, 105-116.

MOSER, Caroline (1993). Gender Planning and Development. Routledge.

OPPENHEIMER, V. K. (1968) The sex-labeling of jobs. Industrial Relations, 7, 219-234.

POWELL, Gary (1987). The Effects of Sex and Gender on Recruitment. Academy of Management Review, Vol 12, Nº 4, 731-743.

RESKIN, B. F., & Hartmann, H. I. (Eds.) (1986) Women's worJc, men's work: Sex segregation on the job. Washington, D C: National Academy Press.

SCOTT, Joan (1987). On Language, Gender and Working-Class History. Institute for Advanced Study, Vol 31, 1-13.

UNGER, R. E. (1979) Toward a redefinition of sex and gender. American Psychologist, 34, 1085-1094.


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