Leaning Out: How Negative Recruitment Experiences Shape Women’s Decisions to Compete for Executive Roles

Brands, R and Fernandez-Mateo, I (2017) Leaning Out: How Negative Recruitment Experiences Shape Women’s Decisions to Compete for Executive Roles. Administrative Science Quarterly, 62 (3). pp. 405-442. ISSN 0001-8392 OPEN ACCESS


This paper proposes gender differences in responses to recruitment rejections as a previously unexamined mechanism contributing to women’s under-representation in top management. We show that women are less likely than men to consider another job with a prospective employer that has rejected them in the past. We build a theoretical model whereby, because of women’s minority status in senior roles, recruitment rejection triggers uncertainty about their general belonging in the executive domain. Belonging uncertainty, in turn, both leads women to place greater weight than men on fair treatment and negatively affects their perceptions of the fairness of the treatment they receive. This dual process makes women more disinclined than men to apply again to a previously rejecting firm. We test our theory with three studies: A field study using longitudinal archival data from an executive search firm, a survey of executives, and an experiment using executive respondents. The results, which are consistent with our model, have implications for theory and practice regarding gender inequality at the labor market’s upper echelons. In particular, we highlight that women’s supply-side decisions to “lean out” of competition for senior roles must be understood in light of their previous experiences with demand-side employers’ practices.

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Item Type: Article
Subject Areas: Organisational Behaviour
Strategy and Entrepreneurship
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© 2016 Johnson Graduate School, Cornell University. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.

Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2016 15:40
Date of first compliant deposit: 09 Sep 2016
Subjects: Women
Executive recruitment
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2024 01:38
URI: https://lbsresearch.london.edu/id/eprint/561

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