Gender Differences In Propensity to Do Favors

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 6 2013 10:41 AM

Gender Differences In Propensity to Do Favors

I cannot find an ungated copy of this interesting paper presented at the AEA conference by Lise Vesterlund, Linda Babcock, Brenda Peyser, MJ Tocci, and Amanda Weirup but since I'm here I can hand copy their abstract. It's an interesting finding that women are more helpful than men in an experimental setting:

We ask if mena nd women differ in the propensity by which they do favors for others. Using a laboratory study we develop an environment where participants are presented with an implicit request to do a favor. We find systematic and persistent gender differences, as women as 50 percent more likely to do the favor than men. This difference is supported by evidence from a survey of MBAs. When asked to think of a work-related favor that they would rather have declined, women were far more likely to report that they in agreeing to do the favor felt pressured, found it difficult to say no, and that they were worried about the consequences of declining. Women were also more likely than men to say that they agree to do too many things at work. The finding that women find it more difficult to decline a request for a favor is particilarly concerning in light of experiment evidence that women also are more likely to be asked for favors. Employees who are more frequently asked and agree to do favors are more likely to become over-committed with low skilled tasks and, and this may prevent them from undertaking tasks that can lead to promotions. We argue that these gender differences in doing favors can help explain the persistent vertical segregation of in the labor market.
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Consider this the latest in a long string of evidence that American workplaces are shot-through with implicit patriarchal norms. If you happen to be the owner or manager of a business, note that in principle there's a huge money-making opportunity here as running a non-sexist workplace (not just in terms of favors, but women on the board etc.) should allow you to reap huge efficiency advantages relative to the typical firm.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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