02/10/2017 10:20 EST | Updated 02/10/2017 11:54 EST

Women Have Less Confidence Than Men When Applying For Jobs

Fact: There are more men in leadership roles than there are women.

The 2016 Fortune 500 list showed that just 21 companies had women at their helm, meaning women hold a pathetic 4.2 per cent of CEO positions in the United States' 500 biggest companies.

And if you think that's because men are more capable of running companies than women, you would be sorely mistaken — and sexist to boot.

woman job interview

Women aren't in as many leadership roles as men because fewer women apply for those positions, and a new study has delved into why.

The study, titled "Leaning Out: How Negative Recruitment Experiences Shape Women’s Decisions to Compete for Executive Roles" published by Sage Journals, found that fewer women than men were applying for senior management roles, and women who had been rejected from similar jobs in the past were even less likely to apply. And although the study also found that men were also less likely to apply to jobs similar to ones they'd been rejected from, women were 1.5 times less likely to apply than men.

Glamour reports that these results say something about the huge gap in confidence between men and women, noting a 2015 study, which found that men in 48 countries had higher self-esteem than women.

"When it comes to gender diversity, it’s not so much a matter of getting women to lean in, it’s more a matter of preventing them from leaning out."

However, the study notes that it's not just that women who have low self-esteem, it's that they also aren't confident during the hiring process. Participants in the study revealed they didn't apply for jobs after rejections because they believed the companies didn't want them; that they thought they were just filling a quota; that companies didn't appreciate them; and some even faced sexism during the hiring process.

"Because of women’s status as a negatively stereotyped minority in senior roles, recruitment rejection triggers uncertainty about their general belonging in the executive domain, which in turn leads women to place greater weight than men on fair treatment and negatively affects their perceptions of the fairness of the treatment they receive," the study notes. "This dual process makes women less inclined than men to apply again to a firm that has rejected them."

And, even after they’ve landed senior positions, women still face challenges when it comes to being successful in their roles.

"The implications here are not trivial, because rejection is a routine part of corporate life," study authors Raina A. Brands and Isabel Fernandez-Mateo wrote in Harvard Business Review. "Employees regularly get rejected for promotions, job transfers, important project assignments, and so on. To reach the top of the organization, people need to keep playing the game, over and over again, even after repeated disappointments. So even small differences between how men and women respond to rejection could lead to big differences over time."

woman job interview

"It’s not that they didn’t think they were good enough; they were withdrawing from the corporate race because of concerns that they would not be valued or truly accepted at the highest levels in the organization," they continued. "Often that feeling was a result of the way hiring and promotion processes were being managed (or mismanaged), sending women subtle (and sometimes overt) signals that the highest rungs of the corporate ladder were intended only for men."

The study suggests employers think about women during the hiring process, starting with the job description — which can include sexist language — and the interview, as well as how they decide who gets a promotion.

"Companies must take a hard look at their recruiting and promotion processes to assess whether they are indeed fair — and, just as important, whether those processes are perceived to be fair, especially by women and other minorities," the study authors note.

"When it comes to gender diversity, it’s not so much a matter of getting women to lean in, it’s more a matter of preventing them from leaning out."

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