Occupational segregation is due, at least in part, to differences in what jobs women and men apply to and how they are evaluated. However, we know little about one mechanism that may relate to employers’ evaluations and, therefore, to occupational segregation: how applicants present themselves to employers. Theories of gender presentation offer competing predictions of how applicants present themselves to employers and empirical studies have not fully examined the issue. We address this theoretical ambiguity and empirical gap by drawing upon 1124 randomly selected applications that U.S. women and men used to apply for the same high-status job. After conducting a content analysis, we found that women and men present themselves similarly in terms of why they want the job and what experiences they have, but differently in terms of who they are and what information they divulge. We conclude that different aspects of applications correspond to different theories of gender presentation, but that most of the evidence supports a perspective of minimal gender differences. The present study implies that one way to combat occupational segregation that occurs due to employers’ essentialist beliefs is to point them to how women and men actually present themselves in their applications.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Anker, R. (1997). Theories of occupational segregation. International Labour Review, 136, 315–339 Retrieved from https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/intlr136&div=31&id=&page=.
Arum, R., & Roksa, J. (2014). Aspiring adults adrift: Tentative transitions of college graduates. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226197142.001.0001.
Brockenbrough, E. (2018). Black men teaching in urban schools: Reassessing black masculinity. New York City: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315696997.
Brown, L. (2003). Girlfighting: Betrayal and rejection among girls. New York: New York University Press. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.2005.173_3.x.
Cann, C. (2015). What school movies and TFA teach us about who should teach urban youth: Dominant narratives as public pedagogy. Urban Education, 50, 288–315. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085913507458.
Charles, M., & Bradley, K. (2009). Indulging our gendered selves: Sex segregation by field of study in 44 countries. American Journal of Sociology, 114, 924–976. https://doi.org/10.1086/595942.
Charles, M., & Grusky, D. (2005). Occupational ghettos: The worldwide segregation of men and women. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1177/009430610603500313
Cicchetti, D. V., & Feinstein, A. R. (1990). High agreement but low kappa: II. Resolving the paradoxes. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 43, 551–558. https://doi.org/10.1016/0895-4356(90)90159-M.
Connell, R. W. (2005). Masculinities. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Cooper, M. (2000). Being the “go-to guy”: Fatherhood, masculinity, and the organization of work in Silicon Valley. Qualitative Sociology, 23, 379–405. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1005522707921.
Cross, S., & Madson, L. (1997). Models of the self: Self-construals and gender. Psychological Bulletin, 122, 5–37. https://doi.org/10.1037//0033-2909.122.1.5.
Deutsch, F. (2007). Undoing gender. Gender & Society, 21, 106–127. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243206293577.
Eagly, A., & Johnson, B. (1990). Gender and leadership style: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 233–256. https://doi.org/10.1037//0033-2909.108.2.233.
Eagly, A., & Karau, S. (2002). Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders. Psychological Review, 109, 573–598. https://doi.org/10.1037//0033-295x.109.3.573.
England, P. (2010). The gender revolution: Uneven and stalled. Gender & Society, 24, 149–166. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243210361475.
Erola, J., Jalonen, S., & Lehti, H. (2016). Parental education, class and income over early life course and children’s achievement. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 44, 33–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rssm.2016.01.003.
Foschi, M., & Valenzuela, J. (2008). Selecting job applications: Effects from gender, self-presentation, and decision type. Social Science Research, 37, 1022–1038. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2007.11.002.
Freeman, R., & McEhlinny, B. (1996). Language and gender. In S. L. McKay & N. Hornberger (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and language teaching (pp. 218–280). New York: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.21832/9781847692849-013.
Gorman, E. (2005). Gender stereotypes, same-gender preferences, and organizational variation in the hiring of women: Evidence from law firms. American Sociological Review, 70, 702–728. https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240507000408.
Guadagno, R., & Cialdini, R. (2007). Gender differences in impression management in organizations: A qualitative literature review. Sex Roles, 56, 483–494. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-007-9187-3.
Gwet, K. (2008). Computing inter-rater reliability and its variance in the presence of high agreement. British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, 61, 29–48. https://doi.org/10.1348/000711006X126600.
Gwet, K. (2014). Handbook of inter-rater reliability: The definitive guide to measuring the extent of agreement among raters (4th ed.). Gaithersburg: Advanced Analytics, LLC. http://www.agreestat.com/book4/9780970806284_prelim_chapter1.pdf
Heilman, M. (2012). Gender stereotypes and workplace bias. Research in Organizational Behavior, 32, 113–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.riob.2012.11.003.
Hodson, R. (1999). Analyzing documentary accounts. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412983372.
Hyde, J. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 581–592. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452218533.n311.
James, C. (2011, June 7). 5,100 new Teach for America teachers join efforts to expand educational opportunity nationwide. Retrieved from https://www.teachforamerica.org/press-room/press-releases/2014/5100-new-teach-america-teachers-join-efforts-expand-educational.
James, C. (2012, June 19). Teach for America to bring a record 10,000 teachers to the nation’s highest-need classrooms in 2012. Retrieved from https://www.teachforamerica.org/press-room/press-releases/2014/teach-america-bring-record-10000-teachers-nations-highest-need.
Kane, E. (2006). “No way my boys are going to be like that!” parents’ responses to children’s gender non-conformity. Gender & Society, 20, 149–176. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243205284276.
Klein, R. (2015, August 11). Teach for America sees another big drop in accepted corps members. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/teach-for-america-applications_us_55c918d5e4b0f1cbf1e60ec6.
Koch, A., D’Mello, S., & Sackett, P. (2015). A meta-analysis of gender stereotypes and bias in experimental simulations of employment decision making. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100, 128–161. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036734.
Koenig, A., Eagly, A., Mitchell, A., & Ristikari, T. (2011). Are leader stereotypes masculine? A meta-analysis of three research paradigms. Psychological Bulletin, 137, 616–642. https://doi.org/10.1037/e617292010-001.
Lueptow, L., Garovich-Szabo, L., & Lueptow, M. (2001). Social change and persistent sex typing: 1974-1997. Social Forces, 80, 1–36. https://doi.org/10.1353/sof.2001.0077.
Moore, M. (2011). Invisible families: Gay identities, relationships and motherhood among black women. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Moss-Racusin, C., Dovidio, J., Brescoll, V., Graham, M., & Handelsman, J. (2012). Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109, 16474–16479. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1211286109.
National Center of Education Statistics (2016). Digest of educational statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/index.asp.
Panno, A., Donati, M., Milioni, M., Chiesi, F., & Caterina, P. (2018). Why women take fewer risk than men do: The mediating role of state anxiety. Sex Roles, 78, 286–294. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0781-8.
Petersen, T., & Morgan, L. (1995). Separate and unequal: Occupation-establishment sex segregation and the gender wage gap. American Journal of Sociology, 101, 329–365. https://doi.org/10.1086/230727.
Pyke, K., & Johnson, D. (2003). Asian American women and racialized femininities: “Doing” gender across cultural worlds. Gender & Society, 17, 33–53. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243202238977.
Riach, P., & Rich, J. (2002). Field experiments of discrimination in the market place. The Economic Journal, 112, F480–F518. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0297.00080.
Ridgeway, C. (1997). Interaction and the conservation of gender inequality: Considering employment. American Sociological Review, 62, 218–235. https://doi.org/10.2307/2657301.
Ridgeway, C. (2009). Framed before we know it: How gender shapes social relations. Gender & Society, 23, 145–160. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755776.001.0001.
Ridgeway, C., & Correll, S. (2004). Unpacking the gender system: A theoretical perspective on gender beliefs and social relations. Gender & Society, 18, 510–531. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243204265269.
Ridgeway, C., & Smith-Lovin, L. (1999). The gender system and interaction. Annual Review of Sociology, 25, 191–216. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.191.
Risman, B. (2009). From doing to undoing: Gender as we know it. Gender & Society, 23, 81–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243208326874.
Rivera, L. (2015). Pedigree: How elite students get elite jobs. Princeton: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400880744.
Rivera, L., & Tilcsik, A. (2017). Class advantage, commitment penalty: The interplay of social class and gender in an elite labor market. American Sociological Review, 81, 1097–1131. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/ywp93.
Seidler, V. (1989). Rediscovering masculinity: Reason, language and sexuality. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203392669.
Sharone, O. (2013). Flawed system/flawed self: Job searching and unemployment experiences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sheppard, L. (2018). Gender differences in leadership aspirations and job and life attribute preferences among U.S. undergraduate students. Sex Roles. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0890-4.
Simon, R., & Nath, L. (2004). Gender and emotion in the U.S.: Do men and women differ in self-reports of feelings and expressive behavior? American Journal of Sociology, 109, 1137–1176. https://doi.org/10.1086/382111.
Spence, J., & Buckner, C. (2000). Instrumental and expressive traits, trait stereotypes, and sexist attitudes: What do they signify? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 44–62. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.2000.tb01021.x.
Strough, J., Pickard Leszczynski, J., Neely, T., Flinn, J., & Margrett, J. (2007). From adolescence to later adulthood: Femininity, masculinity, and androgyny in six age groups. Sex Roles, 57, 385–396. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-007-9282-5.
Sunderland, J. (2006). Language and gender. New York: Routledge.
Twenge, J. (2001). Changes in women’s assertiveness in response to status and roles: A cross-temporal meta-analysis, 1931–1993. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 133–145. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-35184.108.40.206.
Tyler, J., & McCullough, J. (2009). Violating perspective stereotypes on job resumes: A self-presentational approach. Management Communication Quarterly, 23, 272–287. https://doi.org/10.1177/0893318909341412.
Von Baeyer, C., Sherk, D., & Zanna, M. (1981). Impression management in the job interview: When the female applicant meets the male (chauvinist) interviewer. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 7, 45–51. https://doi.org/10.1177/014616728171008.
West, C., & Zimmerman, D. (1987). Doing gender. Gender & Society, 1, 125–151. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243287001002002.
The authors would like to thank Teach for America for supporting this work and Lotus Seeley for her helpful comments.
Conflict of Interest
We do not have any conflicts of interest.
Research Involving Human Participants
We have received IRB approval to conduct this research.
We have a Data Use Agreement with Teach for America.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic supplementary material
About this article
Cite this article
Streib, J., Rochmes, J., Arriaga, F. et al. Presenting Their Gendered Selves? How Women and Men Describe Who They Are, What They Have Done, and Why They Want the Job in Their Written Applications. Sex Roles 81, 610–626 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-1016-y
- Gender gap
- Gender equality
- Job applications