Job-seekers with pronouns on CV less likely to be hired, reports finds

There are two women overlooking a report. One is wearing a brown shirt and the other has a more colourful shirt on. There is a creative background of the trans pride flag colours.

Job-seekers who state their pronouns on their CV are less likely to get hired, a new study has suggested – with those using they/them pronouns most impacted.

The report, published in SSRN, is the first of its kind to focus on hiring discrimination based on pronoun disclosure.

Conducted by University of Toronto economics PhD student Taryn Eames, the research involved the submission of 7,970 fictitious CVs to job vacancies covering 15 occupations across six major US. cities.

The CVs were systematically paired – one going with pronouns, one without – allowing for analysis across various industries, from corporate giants to local businesses.

Results appeared to show that candidates who shared the non-binary pronouns they/them received notably fewer responses compared with their presumed-cisgender counterparts.

What’s more, the simple act of pronoun disclosure, regardless of what there were, led to diminished interest from employers.

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This is a decorative imaage of a non binary person posing with the bisexual flag. They are above a background that has been stylised.
A new study reveals that non-binary people using “they/them” pronouns may be less likely to get an interview. (Getty Images/PinkNews)

The study found that including they/them pronouns decreased the likelihood of a positive employer response by 5.4 percentage points, compared with CVs without pronoun disclosure. Even when juxtaposed with cisgender applicants who disclosed he/him or she/her pronouns, non-binary candidates faced a 3.7 percentage point drop in positive responses.

“Putting they/them pronouns on your resume will disadvantage applicants in terms of average employer response,” Eames said. “However, if it is important for applicants to work at a company that respects them and their identity, disclosing pronouns may be a useful filter to screen out discriminatory employers.”

When employers were looking to fill traditionally female or male-dominated jobs, the discrimination against non-binary individuals applying was compounded.

“Applicants with multiple minority identities are doubly disadvantaged,” Eames explained. “I find that when females apply to male-dominated occupations and disclose they/them pronouns, positive employer response rates are [up to] 11.8 percentage points lower, versus 5.4 to 5.5 percentage points lower in the general case. A similar trend is true when males apply for female-dominated occupations.”

Eames’ research also shed light on the geographical disparities, noting that discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals varied widely across regions and was often influenced by political leanings. Maybe not surprisingly, the report found that discrimination against candidates using they/them pronouns was approximately double in Republican-leaning areas, compared with Democrat cities.

“Pronoun disclosure carries political signals that are communicated regardless of implied gender identity,” the report said.

“It is also possible that some employers view resumes as an inappropriate place to disclose pronouns, view the practice as unprofessional, or infer other information about applicants who list pronouns on their resume (regardless of gender identity).”

While the study’s conclusions on discrimination against presumed cisgender applicants who disclose pronouns are inconclusive, Eames insisted: “There is meaningful discrimination against applicants who disclose they/them pronouns during the hiring process.”

She noted that 74 per cent of Americans claim not to know anyone who uses gender-neutral pronouns, and this lack of connection leads to discrimination.

“It would be impossible for these people to form accurate statistical priors about this group that are not wholly informed by stereotypes or preferences,” she claimed.

To address this trend, Eames emphasised the need for further research into non-binary identity in workplace contexts. Questions such as the information conveyed to employers through pronoun disclosure, the impact of new hiring technologies on discrimination, and strategies to combat bias – whether conscious or unconscious – must be explored to create more-inclusive hiring practices, she insisted.