Researching the hidden male bias in start-ups’ websites
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Many corporate websites feature an “our team” page with photos. Wilfrid Laurier University PhD student Peter Fisher has found these pages may advantage some male job candidates.

Fisher, studying at Laurier’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, won an award for a paper detailing an experiment using the website of a finance start-up.

Participants were first tested on their self-monitoring skills – their ability to pick up on social cues and adapt their behaviour. Later, they were randomly selected to view a website with an all-male team, all-female team or no team page at all. Finally, they wrote a cognitive test.

Fisher found men with high self-monitoring skills performed better on the cognitive test when shown an all-male team. High-self-monitoring women did better when shown an all-female team, but not better than the men. People with low self-monitoring skills showed no performance differentials, perhaps because they didn’t pick up on team composition.

Fisher hypothesizes that when high-self-monitoring men see an all-male team, they recognize the stereotype that men do better in this field, so they relax and perform better. Because there are few all-female teams in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, team pages “could be a factor influencing the continued male dominance in these fields,” says Fisher.

"STEM startups need to recognize that there could be negative effects from something as innocuous as putting your team on your website. In tech culture, people aren’t very conscious that gender inequity exists. If even one tech startup looks at themselves and says, ‘Maybe we need to change the way we recruit people,’ then that’s a good thing."
Peter Fisher
Wilfrid Laurier University PhD student
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