The Effect of Hierarchy on Applicant Pool Gender Diversity: Evidence from Experiments
65 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2022 Last revised: 30 Sep 2023
Date Written: February 9, 2022
This paper investigates how job seekers' perceptions of an employer's formal hierarchy affect the size and gender composition of its applicant pool. Building on the literature on gendered organizations and organizational design, we develop opposing perspectives on these relationships. To arbitrate between these perspectives, we first conduct a field experiment in partnership with a hiring firm. We find that featuring a flatter hierarchy in recruiting materials does not significantly affect the size of the applicant pool, but significantly decreases women's representation within it. Our follow-up survey experiment identifies several potential mechanisms (e.g., perceptions of career progression, informality, workload, and fit). Our findings imply that firms' growing tendency to adopt flatter hierarchies could inadvertently undermine efforts to attract a greater proportion of women applicants.
Keywords: organizational structure, hierarchy, gender, sorting, labor market
JEL Classification: C93, 21, D22, J16, J21, J24, J70, L23, L26, M10, M13, M14, M51, O15
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation