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Few studies empirically examine gender differences in application patterns and how they affect employment rates. Large datasets that allow an analysis of systematic differences in application patterns are rare.
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The role of recruitment for gender differences within the academy

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Despite advances in gender equality, a gender gap in pay and career development in Sweden remains. But is it due to discrimination or to gender differences in preferences or productivity. In a new project at the School of Business, Economics and Law, researchers use detailed data from recruitment processes at Swedish universities to investigate the causes of the persistent gender gap in the labor market.

“In previous research, it has been difficult to determine to what extent the gender differences we observe in the labor market arise due to certain groups being discriminated, if they systematically make other choices, or if there are differences in productivity. For example, it is often claimed that women are less likely to compete for employment or promotion, and that once they apply for a job, they meet the qualifications better than men. But there are few studies that empirically examine gender differences in application patterns, and whether potential differences affect gender differences in employment rates. Large datasets that capture all applicants and thus allow an analysis of systematic differences in men’s and women’s application patterns are rare”, says Eva Ranehill, Assistant Professor in economics at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg.

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Portrait photo of Eva Ranehill, woman around thirtyfive years, dark short hair
Eva Ranehill, Assistant Professor in Economics

Data from Sweden's ten largest universities

In the research project "Gender differences in the career progression of academic researchers: the importance of performance evaluations, self-selection and performance", Eva Ranehill together with Anna Sandberg, Stockholm University, Erin Hengel, University of Liverpool, and Binnur Balkan, Stockholm School of Economics, investigate recruitment processes in academia. The research group has collected data on employment and promotions at Sweden’s ten largest universities. The material covers a large number of recruitment cases at several different stages in the academic career ladder, and includes, among other things, application documents, evaluations and decisions on employment and promotion. This allows the researchers to make detailed analyses of whether gender differences can be explained by differences in qualifications, evaluations or application patterns.

Unless the best researchers apply, are hired and promoted, societal resources are not used optimally and the research is negatively affected

“The academic sector is known for its lack of women in higher positions and even though the proportion of female professors is increasing, statistics indicate that existing gender differences are not solely due to historical differences. For example, during each of the last ten years, a larger proportion of men than women were promoted to professor twelve years after graduation, according to statistics presented by the Swedish Higher Education Authority”, says Eva Ranehill.

Exploring the importance of networks

Within the project, the researchers will also investigate whether there are gender differences in who is attributed the merit of co-authored research articles, as well as the importance of networks in the appointment of academic positions.

“The research sector plays an important role in society. Unless the best researchers apply, are hired and promoted, societal resources are not used optimally and the research is negatively affected. We therefore believe that our results will be of interest to both universities, decision-makers, research funders and other actors who are interested in guaranteeing a meritocratic appointment of positions”, Eva Ranehill says.

The research project runs for three years and is funded by Forte (Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare).