Gender inequality is a frustratingly stubborn and persistent challenge for many organizations. Not surprisingly, then, practitioners and scholars alike have called for additional research into gender differences in advancement and pay both to uncover the reasons why they occur and to suggest ways they might be mitigated, if not eliminated. This study answers that call by examining whether formal job posting is superior to informal sponsorships in: (1) fostering the advancement of women into higher-level jobs, (2) reducing the pay gap between men and women as they progress in organizations, and (3) encouraging women to seek higher-level jobs.
Overall, the study’s answers to these questions are “yes,’ “yes,” and “it depends.” Specifically, the research showed:
- Across the board, women were far more likely than men to be successful in their internal job searches when they used formal job posting than when they relied on informal sponsorships. This is not to say, however, that women did better because of gender per se. Rather further analysis showed that it had more to do with the relative standing of the jobs that women occupied. Specifically, formal job posting was more effective for those in lower-status jobs and functions, as well as for those embedded in large work groups, and in the organization studied (as in many others) these are the jobs, functions and types of work groups that contained relatively large numbers of female employees.
- Formal job posting trumped informal sponsorships when it came to the equivalency of salary offoes. There was no gender gap when formal job posting was used. When informal sponsorships were utilized, however, men received salary offers that exceeded those of women by an average of 1.8 percent.
- Overall, women applied for posted jobs more frequently than men did. Again, this largely reflects the dominance of women in lower level, less visible jobs. When these and other job-related factors were controlled for, women were between 12 and 26 percent less likely than men to apply for posted jobs for which they were qualified. Taken together, these results suggest that women were impeded by gender-related and/or structural factors from using what for them would have been a particularly potent means of seeking advancement to higher-level jobs.
Thus, the study strongly suggests that women benefit in terms of both career advancement and pay to the extent companies rely on formal job posting to fill vacancies internally. This is especially true for women who are mired in low status, low visibility jobs. At the same time, though it appears that a reliance on formal job posting will work only if organizations can find ways to overcome the impediments that tend to keep qualified women from making full use of this potentially powerful tool.