Gender, Tastes for Tech and for the Tech Work Environment? Large-Scale Field Experimental Evidence from an Internet of Things Platform

37 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2019

See all articles by Kevin Boudreau

Kevin Boudreau

Northeastern University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Nilam Kaushik

IIM Bangalore

Date Written: November 20, 2019


Most technology companies continue to struggle to fill all their positions and to achieve gender parity in their ranks. This paper studies supply-side differences in the willingness of males and females to supply their efforts to tech-intensive careers and the technology sector — and whether this relates to the work opportunity itself, or to the tech work organizational environment. We report on a field experiment in which 92,678 U.S. university-educated individuals (covering all disciplines and all career stages) were given the opportunity to join a representative tech opportunity, with interactions and work tasks managed via an innovation platform. Individuals were randomly assigned to treatments, either emphasizing competitive interactions or collaborative interactions with other program participants. We find that, at least in broadest population averages, males are more willing to participate than females, and especially so in the competitive treatment. However, females in traditionally male-dominated fields — such as Computer Science and Engineering — are at least as willing to participate as their male counterparts. The patterns are stable over different ages and cohorts, and cannot be explained either by differences in individual capabilities or opportunity costs. Nor can variation in organizational environment nearly explain the bulk of results. Thus, the results are consistent with a sort of intrinsic difference in “taste for tech” that forms prior to entering our population — i.e., prior to attaining higher education. At the same time, it is incorrect to suggest that either sex generally has a greater taste for tech. We discuss how the results suggest scope for widening the pipeline of (female) tech workers by firms.

Keywords: Gender, Technology, STEM, Competition, Collaboration, Field Experiment, Platform, Internet of Things

Suggested Citation

Boudreau, Kevin and Kaushik, Nilam, Gender, Tastes for Tech and for the Tech Work Environment? Large-Scale Field Experimental Evidence from an Internet of Things Platform (November 20, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Kevin Boudreau (Contact Author)

Northeastern University ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Nilam Kaushik

IIM Bangalore ( email )

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