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A longer shortlist increases the consideration of female candidates in male-dominant domains

Abstract

Making it onto the shortlist is often a crucial early step toward professional advancement. For under-represented candidates, one barrier to making the shortlist is the prevalence of informal recruitment practices (for example, colleague recommendations). The current research investigates informal shortlists generated in male-dominant domains (for example, technology executives) and tests a theory-driven intervention to increase the consideration of female candidates. Across ten studies (N = 5,741) we asked individuals to generate an informal shortlist of candidates for a male-dominant role and then asked them to extend the list. We consistently found more female candidates in the extended (versus initial) list. This longer shortlist effect occurs because continued response generation promotes divergence from the category prototype (for example, male technology executives). Studies 3 and 4 supported this mechanism, and study 5 tested the effect of shortlist length on selection decisions. This longer shortlist intervention is a low-cost and simple way to support gender equity efforts.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank members of the ExPO Lab for useful feedback. The authors received no specific funding for this work.

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Contributions

B.J.L. and D.C. contributed to the project conception. B.J.L. collected and analysed data. Z.B. and L.M.G. collected and analysed data under the supervision of B.J.L. All authors contributed to the manuscript, and all authors approve the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Brian J. Lucas.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Human Behaviour thanks Molly Carnes, Susan Teubner-Rhodes and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Primary Handling Editor(s): Samantha Antusch, Mary Elizabeth Sutherland and Stavroula Kousta.

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Supplementary Appendices, Supplementary Tables 1–6 and Supplementary References.

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Lucas, B.J., Berry, Z., Giurge, L.M. et al. A longer shortlist increases the consideration of female candidates in male-dominant domains. Nat Hum Behav 5, 736–742 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-01033-0

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