A woman sits opposite of a man at an office table

The Resume Gap is Real

The Resume Gap is Real

Have you ever looked at a job posting, scanned the necessary qualifications, and  immediately ruled yourself out from applying? If so, you’re not alone. According to a report by  Hewlett-Packard, women apply to jobs only when they meet 100% of the qualifications. Men, on  the other hand, approach job applications with much more confidence. Even if they meet only  60% of the qualifications, they tend to apply anyway.  

This gender disparity manifests in many other steps in the job application process.  According to a study by Kieran Snyder for Fortune, women tend to be more wordy when  describing prior jobs, tell a story with complete sentences, and use passive statements with less  assertive words. Men tend to keep their resumes one page, create bulleted lists of achievements,  and use strong verb statements. These simple differences in presentation meant that men’s  resumes “provided more detail with less words and less distraction.” Even if a male and a female  candidate are equally qualified, hiring managers will lean to the more assertive resume.  

There’s a confidence gap and a resume gap, and it means that women are being  overlooked for men who are equally, or even less, qualified. When women do apply, the style of  their resume might hold them back. These two factors contribute to gender disparities in male dominated fields such as tech and finance. So, what sociological pressures lead to women and  men presenting themselves so differently? Studies show that it begins in elementary school.  

According to the Harvard Business Review, girls are socialized to follow the rules and  are rewarded for doing so. This skill helps girls perform better in schools relative to boys but can  become a risk when they enter the workforce. A 2001 study by Diane Ready showed that boys  are given more freedom to break rules, evoking the “boys will be boys” mantra, whereas girls are  “expected to follow rules carefully and adopt an obedient rule.” Women are trained from a young  age to thrive on the validation that comes from following authority. But in adult life, where rules  are sometimes meant to be challenged, it can lead women to fall behind. The same skills that  lead a girl to succeed in school might hold her back from applying to a job that she isn’t 100%  qualified for. They learn to avoid taking risks and making mistakes. Stanford psychologist Carol  Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, wrote, “If life were one long grade  school, women would be the undisputed rulers of the world.”

Similar sociological factors influence how women write their resumes. Societal norms  push women to be compassionate and collaborative whereas men are rewarded for being  authoritative and ambitious. This means that when women write a resume, they must struggle  with these expectations and may shy away from writing assertively. Biases in the workplace  reinforce these fears: Katty Klay and Claire Shipman write in the Atlantic, “women suffer  consequences for their lack of confidence—but when they do behave assertively, they may suffer  a whole other set of consequences, ones that men don’t typically experience.”  

Therefore, gender biases and systemic sexism in the school and workplace influence how  women think about themselves, and thus how they present themselves. These external barriers  must be addressed. But these barriers might not be broken in our lifetime which means we must  face the one in our own heads first. Stop thinking so much and just act. “The natural result of  low confidence is inaction”, write Kay and Shipman. “When women hesitate because we aren’t  sure, we hold ourselves back.”  

Apply to the job you want and write your resume with confidence. Consider the way you  might be downplaying your expertise so that you don’t come off “too assertive”. Simply being  aware of the way women are socialized can lead you to shed sexist expectations. In a world  where confidence is often valued more than competence, simple changes in the way you consider  opportunities and present your qualifications can make all the difference.