"The Role Played by Ambivalent Sexism
In the Motherhood Penalty and Hiring Discrimination"

a Master's Thesis by
Alynn Gordon with Timothy Kennedy and Hilary M. Lips, Ph.D.
     The goal of my psychology thesis was to explore factors contributing to the motherhood penalty. Literature on the motherhood penalty and gender-based hiring discrimination illustrates that women are more likely than men to suffer disadvantages through pay allocation, hirability, and perceived job-related skills. These already prominent disadvantages are shown to be exacerbated when a woman indicates she is a parent; however, men do not seem to be penalized for being parents. Previous literature focusing on these problems explains that stereotypes are the reason for such differential treatment; however, information which suggests an applicant is not a "typical" member of their gender does not eradicate discrimination completely. Based on the literature and previous findings, it was hypothesized that an individuals' level of ambivalent sexism could be a contributing factor in this particular occurrence.
     The experiment had individuals read resumes and descriptions which were manipulated for gender and parental status; each resume was for either a male or female parent or non-parent. Data was collected in a computer laboratory on Radford University's campus and was completed online by student participants. Participants were asked to read the resume and description in order to evaluate the applicant on various personal and work related traits. Participants were given several questionnaires to answer including an established sexism inventory (Ambivalent Sexism Inventory, Glick & Fiske, 1996) and demographic information. Researcher created questionnaires assessing the hirability, likability, competence and salary allocation for the applicant were also completed.
Statistical analyses have not been completed. But thus far, respondents of each gender showed a small tendency to rate members of the other gender higher on hirability items, which could be due to the content of the resume. When evaluating applicants, respondents may have remembered the resume as a whole, focusing on the applicants' credentials, rather than the applicants' gender. Respondents tended to view parent applicants as more likeable than nonparent applicants, which may be due to our society's depiction of a parent as someone who is kind and loving. Respondents tended to view parent applicants as more competent than nonparent applicants. This finding is perhaps a reflection of the idea that parents who work must be able to balance their multiple roles successfully and are therefore more competent. Effect of participant gender by applicant gender was observed where each gender rated applicants of their own gender as more competent, which is most likely due to in-group favoritism. All of these preliminary tendencies will be revisited as the analyses continues.
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Last Updated: September 16th, 2013