The proverbial old boys clubs in elite professions may no longer have rules keeping women and minorities out, but an analysis of their hiring practices suggests their upper-class, male and white makeup will stubbornly remain.
According to a new U.S.-based study, bankers, lawyers and management consultants would rather hire someone who is like them than someone who is best qualified for the job — perpetuating the social and cultural makeup of these professions and reinforcing the glass ceiling that has been battled for decades.
“Of course, employers are looking for people who have the baseline of skills to effectively do the job,” said study author Lauren A. Rivera, an assistant professor of management and organizations and sociology at Northwestern University. “But, beyond that, employers really want people who they will bond with, who they will feel good around, who will be their friend and maybe even their romantic partner. As a result, employers don’t necessarily hire the most-skilled candidates.”
Appearing in the American Sociological Review Thursday, the study titled “Hiring as Cultural Matching: The Case of Elite Professional Service Firms,” claims to be the first systematic, empirical investigation of whether shared culture between employers and job candidates affects hiring.
There are no comparable studies in Ontario, but the Law Society of Upper Canada has a voluntary questionnaire on race filled out by slightly more than half the lawyers in the province. According to their statistics, minorities make up 17-18 per cent of lawyers, compared to 23 per cent of the total population.
Falconer, who is also a bencher at the Law Society of Upper Canada says that unlike here, detailed race and cultural breakdowns for American firms are available in the States.
“That speaks volumes to the Canadian mentality,” he said. “We still are very uncomfortable discussing these issues as law firms and I think we have miles to go in terms of openly talking about these issues and being openly transparent and accessible about these issues.”
This is “providing new opportunities for women and ethnic minorities who display the right stocks of cultural signals, as did many of the athletic, affluent, Ivy League-educated white and non-white women and men who were hired,” wrote Rivera in the study.