Voice Modulated Interviews Hide Gender, Expose Confidence Gap

Chloe Gilman
July 18, 2016 9:00 AM

A former recruiter in the tech industry set up an experiment hoping to help understand the disparity in the technical performances of men and women in interview situations, and found some surprising results. Inspired by her observations in the workplace, Aline Lerner created interviewing.io, a tool that allows job-seekers to practice technical interviews with major tech companies without revealing identifying information. 

Noticing that men tended to perform better on these technical interviews, Lerner began an experiment, where she offered participants the option to use voice-masking software for the interview. This is where things take an interesting turn: in the limited study, she found that male participants that were modulated to sound feminine were actually rated higher than those that weren’t, and the women whose voices were made to sound masculine were rated lower than those that went unmodulated.

What gives?! While the study was too limited to offer statistically significant results, Lerner used this information to help understand why women seem to be performing at a lower level than men even when their gender is masked, and it seems that it may be a matter of self-confidence. She found that men are more likely to perform multiple interviews even if their initial interviews were scored low, while women tended to quit after receiving a poor score.

Studies from Cornell have also found that women tend to underestimate and undervalue their technical skills, while men show more confidence in their abilities. So basically, the same reason men refuse to ask for directions is the reason they are more likely to get that job. Lerner hopes that information like this will help women take a bit more control in closing the gender gap, as it can (at least partially) be an issue of confidence and determination, even if you have to fake it, and not just inherent gender bias in many industries.

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