Returning to Workforce, Women Should Explain Employment Gap

Returning to Workforce, Women Should Explain Employment Gap

In a first-of-its-kind study, two economists from Vanderbilt Law School have found that a female applicant returning to the workforce can significantly raise her chances of getting hired if she offers personal information that clarifies any gaps in her work history.

“Our study provides the first-ever evidence that women who conceal personal information dramatically lower their hiring prospects,” said Dr. Joni Hersch, professor of law and economics at Vanderbilt Law School.

The findings contradict long-held conventional wisdom that if a woman wants equal footing professionally, she must withhold any personal or family-related information, even if it explains why she has employment gaps.

This “don’t ask, don’t tell” concept is so strong, in fact, that many people — both employers and employees — think it is illegal, or at least inappropriate, to ask an applicant about children or marital status. But in reality, this concept is simply a suggestion by the the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) — not a law, explain the researchers.

For the study, the researchers asked 3,022 participants to act as “potential employers” and to choose between two job candidates, described as mostly similar except for their openness about a 10-year gap in their job histories.

The “open” applicants used excuses such as they had been taking time off work to raise children or they’d just had a recent divorce and now need to return to work. No information was given in the other scenarios.

The statistics were striking.

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