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What does someone's gender identity signal to employers?

Hannah Van Borm (Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Marlot Dhoop (Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Allien Van Acker (Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Stijn Baert (Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 23 March 2020

Issue publication date: 17 August 2020




The purpose of this paper is to explore the mechanisms underlying hiring discrimination against transgender men.


The authors conduct a scenario experiment with final-year business students in which fictitious hiring decisions are made about transgender or cisgender male job candidates. More importantly, these candidates are scored on statements related to theoretical reasons for hiring discrimination given in the literature. The resulting data are analysed using a bivariate analysis. Additionally, a multiple mediation model is run.


Suggestive evidence is found for co-worker and customer taste-based discrimination, but not for employer taste-based discrimination. In addition, results show that transgender men are perceived as being in worse health, being more autonomous and assertive, and have a lower probability to go on parental leave, compared with cisgender men, revealing evidence for (positive and negative) statistical discrimination.

Social implications

Targeted policy measures are needed given the substantial labour market discrimination against transgender individuals measured in former studies. However, to combat this discrimination effectively, one needs to understand its underlying mechanisms. This study provides the first comprehensive exploration of these mechanisms.


This study innovates in being one of the first to explore the relative empirical importance of dominant (theoretical) explanations for hiring discrimination against transgender men. Thereby, the authors take the logical next step in the literature on labour market discrimination against transgender individuals.



The authors thank Joz Motmans, Marion Wasserbauer, Simon Amez, Brecht Neyt, and Philippe Sterkens for their comments which helped us to improve this study substantially.


Van Borm, H., Dhoop, M., Van Acker, A. and Baert, S. (2020), "What does someone's gender identity signal to employers?", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 41 No. 6, pp. 753-777.



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