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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Teach for America for supporting this work and Lotus Seeley for her helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Jessi Streib.

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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

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Keywords

  • Gender gap
  • Gender equality
  • Work
  • Job applications
  • Self-presentation