The Gender Gap in Tech & Competitive Work Environments? Field Experimental Evidence from an Internet-of-Things Product Development Platform

55 Pages Posted: 18 May 2020

See all articles by Kevin Boudreau

Kevin Boudreau

Northeastern University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Nilam Kaushik

IIM Bangalore

Date Written: May 2020

Abstract

Many technology companies struggle to fill all their positions and to achieve gender parity in their ranks. One explanation for gender disparities is the possibility that men and women differ in their willingness to work under competitive organizational environments of tech firms. To investigate this question, this paper reports on a large platform-based field experiment in which 97,696 U.S. university-educated individuals were given the opportunity to join a tech-related product development activity. Individuals were randomly assigned to treatments emphasizing either competitive or collaborative interactions with other participants. We find that (1) in non-STEM fields, the competition treatment leads to a 27% drop in participation for females in comparison to males. However, in our main finding, (2) in STEM fields, we find no statistical differences in men and women’s responses to competition. The patterns are consistent with (3) men in non-STEM fields exhibiting overconfidence in their likelihood of succeeding under competition. We also find that, while participation in highest in STEM fields, (4) the ratio of female to male participation in a field is better predicted by whether the field is male- or female-dominated, than it is by whether it is a STEM field or not. We discuss theoretical interpretations and implications for organizations.

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Suggested Citation

Boudreau, Kevin and Kaushik, Nilam, The Gender Gap in Tech & Competitive Work Environments? Field Experimental Evidence from an Internet-of-Things Product Development Platform (May 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27154. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3603784

Kevin Boudreau (Contact Author)

Northeastern University ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Nilam Kaushik

IIM Bangalore ( email )

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