Article: What an experiment with sensors reveal about gender diversity


What an experiment with sensors reveal about gender diversity

A people analytics company used sensors to study behaviors of both men and women to understand whether there were any differences in the way they worked and whether the difference in behaviour is the reason women representation at senior positions is low. Here is what the experiment found out.
What an experiment with sensors reveal about gender diversity

The subject was a large multinational firm, a client of Humanyze, the people analytics company conducting the experiment. Composition of women stood as – 35-40% at the entry level workforce, and about only 20% at the two highest senior positions in the company.

The experiment

The researchers collected the metadata from email exchanges and meeting schedules. 100 employees, distributed across all hierarchies, were given sociometric badges, using which their in-person behaviour was tracked. Behaviours like communication patterns (by recording movement), speech, closeness to other badges, who dominates a conversation, where does that conversation take place and between whom. Only the metadata was collected with visibility on the gender, position, tenure in the company – the identities of the people was anonymized and the content hidden.

The results

The analysis failed to find any perceptible differences in the behaviours of the two genders. The contacts with other employees were the same for both and the contacts with senior leadership were also identical. The time spent on work was similar – with both men and women having “indistinguishable work patterns,” according to the study. The surprising finding was that even the performance evaluation scores were identical, yet men made a majority of leadership positions.

These findings refuted two myths:

Myth #1: Women lack access to important, informal networks

Women were found to be as central (close to decision-makers) as men in the workplace. The direct interaction with management of both the sexes was comparable, if not entirely identical.

Myth #2: Women lack access to seniority

Women matched men step to step when it came to accessibility to seniors in the organization. Women were also two social connections away from senior management in emails and meetings; like men were.

The reasons

Then what are the reasons that women and men do not have the same promotion rates? No “reasons”. Just one “reason”. Bias. The experiment proved that men and women, even with same behaviours, are treated differently. The issue is not how women work, but how their work is perceived 

Since granular data wasn’t recorded to ensure privacy, the analysis cannot do a content analysis of the conversations, interactions or exchanges to assess how all of those were perceived and study bias. When the work patterns are similar, the interaction with senior management is identical, even performance evaluations are similar, then only gender heuristics and bias can dictate the lack of women leadership at the top, because it isn’t that women do not voluntarily wish to grow professionally themselves, get handsome raises themselves, be leaders themselves. They often just don’t get it. It is important for organizations to stop assumptions about gender equality and address the issue with facts.

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Topics: Diversity

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