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Time to Rethink 'Work Experience'?

In an in-press Social Science Research article appearing online this week, North Carolina State University's Steve McDonald shows that women are generally less likely than men to land certain jobs informally — i.e., when not searching for them — through workplace social contacts. To come to this conclusion, McDonald analyzed US Bureau of Labor Statistics study data obtained between 1979 and 1998. "Gender appears to moderate the influence of work experience on non-searching," McDonald writes, adding that "while occupational and related work experience are positively and significantly associated with the odds of non-searching among men, work experience is unrelated to non-searching among women." Further, McDonald suggests that "men are more often being informally tapped to fill highly skilled jobs and women are often recruited to fill jobs with more flexible employment arrangements." Overall, he says his study sheds "light on the mechanisms of status attainment," and that "treating work experience as a measure of skill accumulation alone simultaneously props up a meritocratic view of the labor market while downplaying the role of nepotism." Going forward, McDonald suggests researchers who aim to elucidate gender differences among the forms of work experience and informal job placements might profit from additional studies as to how skills acquisition, social resource acquisition, and discrimination influence one another and contribute to gender inequalities in the workplace.

HT: Nature

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