October 09, 2006

Sex Discrimination in the Workplace in Vienna

This is an interesting statistical study by Doris Weichselbaumer of the University of Linz in Austria about discrimination in the workplace. Weichselbaumer looks at data and attempts to strip out perceived differences between men and women as well as other factors to assess discrimination- how far women are rejected for jobs because of the sheer fact that they are a woman.

Her method was to submit three applications one of a man, one of a "tomboy" and one of a feminine woman to various firms (277 in total- divided between traditionally masculine and feminine types of work). She found that the "tomboy" despite displaying on her application various forms of masculine behaviour and being surveyed elsewhere with a control group as someone with masculine characteristics was still treated as a woman- that outweighed in many people's eyes the fact that she seemed to have all the roughness of a man. Its interesting because her study purports to show that it is sex difference and not character difference that loses or gains people jobs against people of a different sex- i.e. its not because a male personality type, aggressive, ambitious etc is preferred but because men are preferred.

To be honest, I am not competent to assess the methodology of the study. One of the ways of interpreting it might be to say that employers are so blind to the distinctions within sexes that when called to put their money down and employ someone they will rigidly attach sex and gender to each other, no matter what the evidence in front of them. Based on her data, Weichselbaumer doesn't go that far, but its a worthwhile thought and whatever she does think about why this state of affairs exists, it is her belief based upon her study that she has proved that discrimination exists regardless of a person's suitability for a job whether on their CV or in their character.

Whether she has or not I leave to those more competent with statistics than myself (being to further the cause, a man who understands little of statistics but loves Jane Austen) but this is a study worthy of attention.

(Oh and a note of acknowledgement to Crooked Timber's discussion on gender for furnishing me with the web address for the article.)

I should issue a disclaimer at the end of this article that there are other studies out there and as this is not an academic article nor am I an expert in this field, I cannot state that I know many of them- so anyone that wants to put more my way is perfectly free to.


Anonymous said...

there's alsways the point of ratioal discriminatio-ie the searching costs of not using gender cues may be high enough that employers use them instead

Gracchi said...

But given the general simularity between men and women- the frequency say of tomboys in teh population adn of gentle men, would that be a plausible strategy. It might seem like one but I don't think it works. Thanks for the comment though.

Political Umpire said...

Interesting post. My guest blogger and I have been having an exchange on this sort of thing: