Is Highest GPA biased by gender?

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According to The Alliance Review, playing up excellent college grades won’t necessarily help a woman seeking a job — and might actually hurt, according to new research from Ohio State University.

Natasha Quadlin, the assistant professor of sociology, set out to determine how much academic performance matters to employers, and especially whether that’s different by gender. Her results will appear in the April issue of the journal American Sociological Review.

She found, after submitting fake applications for real entry-level jobs, that employers were much less likely to call back a female candidate with a very high grade-point average than a woman who had slightly less impressive grades.

Men who majored in math and earned the highest GPAs were called back three times as often as high-achieving women math majors, liquor stores.

Past research has found that high-achieving women suffer what Quadlin called a “competence-likeability trade-off,” and are unable to be viewed as both at the same time. “Men can simultaneously be judged to be powerful but still be beloved,” she said. From a survey of hiring managers, Quadlin found that employers gave an edge to female candidates perceived as likable. The most successful men were seen as competent and committed.

Quadlin sent out 2,106 fictional applications to 1,053 job openings across the country for general, entry-level positions. Gender was signaled by the first name; she picked names that were among the top five baby names for the mid-1990s in each region. Surnames were common and didn’t signal race or ethnicity.

She used a random number generator to assign a college GPA somewhere between 2.50 (C-plus or B-minus average) and 3.95 (solid A average). The fictional applicants all majored in English, business or mathematics at large, moderately selective public universities.

The resumes were extremely similar, including the same number of extracurricular activities and past work experience. Overall, 12.9 percent got calls back on their applications, either with invitations to interview or to call to learn more about the job. The callback rates between men and women were nearly the same.

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