Thursday, October 23, 2014

Speaking out in a group correlates with gender.

The effectiveness of group decision-making depends on whether the best informed members actually contribute to the discussion. Coffman does a laboratory experiment to examine factors that influence an individual's propensity to contribute, finding that in general undergraduate women contribute less than men, but show the least reluctance for more female-stereotyped subject areas such as art and the most for male-stereotyped subject such as sports:
We use a lab experiment to explore the factors that predict an individual's decision to contribute her idea to a group. We find that contribution decisions depend upon the interaction of gender and the gender stereotype associated with the decision-making domain: conditional on measured ability, individuals are less willing to contribute ideas in areas that are stereotypically outside of their gender's domain. Importantly, these decisions are largely driven by self-assessments, rather than fear of discrimination. Individuals are less confident in gender incongruent areas and are thus less willing to contribute their ideas. Because even very knowledgeable group members under-contribute in gender incongruent categories, group performance suffers and, ex post, groups have difficulty recognizing who their most talented members are. Our results show that even in an environment where other group members show no bias, women in male-typed areas and men in female-typed areas may be less influential. An intervention that provides feedback about a woman's (man's) strength in a male-typed (female-typed) area does not significantly increase the probability that she contributes her ideas to the group. A back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals that a “lean in” style policy that increases contribution by women would significantly improve group performance in male-typed domains.
And, a related bit of work from Eddy et al. shows that although females outnumber males in biology, does a study of 23 different introductory biology classrooms that reveals systematic gender disparities in student performance on exams and student participation when instructors ask students to volunteer answers to instructor-posed questions.

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