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New study reveals a shocking stat about women applying for jobs

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

When there’s only one female job candidate in a pool of four finalists, the odds of her being hired are statistically zero. That’s according to the latest study from the University of Colorado.

Three researchers conducted a study that examined a university’s hiring decisions of women and men for academic positions. The sample size was 598 job finalists, 174 of whom received job offers over a three-year period. The team's findings? The odds of hiring a woman were 79.14 times greater if there were at least two women in the finalist pool. And the odds of hiring a minority were 193.72 times greater if there were at least two minority candidates being considered.

Each added woman in the pool of candidates doesn’t increase the probability of hiring a woman — the difference is between having one or two female candidates. The authors say this “get-two-in-the-pool effect” could be a first step in overcoming unconscious biases.

This trend extends far beyond academia and corporate America. The Rooney Rule is an NFL policy that requires league teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior roles. During this year's Super Bowl week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the NFL will institute a “Rooney Rule” that requires interviewing women for executive positions. On Tuesday, the San Francisco 49ers became the first NFL organization to formally adopt the initiative for all business-related jobs, though not operations positions like coaching or scouting.

An undeniable key to job opportunities is having people to vouch for you. Ellevate, a membership-based community for working women, emphasizes the importance of networking in finding job opportunities. “Networking is the number one unwritten rule of career success. People, especially at a senior level, are getting jobs through their connections,” Ellevate president Kristy Wallace says.

Tanya van Court is the founder and CEO of Sow, a platform that helps kids share and save money more wisely. She says she wouldn’t have been able to start her own company if it weren’t for her various professional circles, including the Stanford National Black Alumni Association, which contributed to her first round of funding along with friends and family. “Networking is not about meeting a single person; it's more like a chain of events that gets you closer to your goal,” she says.

The U.S. Department of Labor backs up her claim. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of jobs are found through networking rather than by filling out job applications.

“The most important conversations about your career happen when you’re not in the room — people who will champion you when you’re not actually there,” Wallace says.

Grace Institute, a nonprofit that provides tuition-free job training for women in New York City, works to find women jobs, but also serves as a support network after they’re placed. Director of Development Jessica James says, “These women come to us to become competitive because they’re at a disadvantage for one reason or another — many are living below the poverty line, having to care for family, or needing to take jobs that they’re overqualified for just to get some income.” She says only 10% of the 100,000 women that have come through the organization since its founding in 1897 hold bachelor’s degrees.

Wallace says the University of Colorado study reveals an inflection point that employers should consider. “This really sheds light on the steps we need to take around gender quotas. Having two women in a candidate pool could drive real change and make a tangible impact on the workforce.”