Kim Elsesser, a gender bias expert discusses an example of a relevant study in Forbes. In this research, mixed sex groups and matched sex groups take part in a task to investigate if women are more likely to volunteer to undertake a task to their own detriment, for the benefit of the rest of the group. In the study by Babcock, Recalde, Vesterlund and Weingart; Gender Differences in Accepting and Receiving Requests for Tasks with Low Promotability (2017), participants are offered $1.00 for their participation in an online task. During the simple task, participants were told that if one member of the group clicked a different button on the screen, that individual would receive $1.25, whilst the rest of the group would receive $2.00 instead, meaning the volunteer would potentially lose out on some of the potential cash reward.
According to Elsesser, in mixed sex groups:
“Women were 48% more likely than men to volunteer to press the button. In other words, women took a hit so that everyone came out better.”
Furthermore, in matched sex groups:
“In the same-sex groups, the gender differences disappeared, and women were no more likely to volunteer to press the button than men were.”
This study demonstrated that when in a mixed sex setting, female participants would be more likely to volunteer to step up to carry out a task which would not elevate them in any way, at the expense of elevating other members of the team if a male was also present. The study continues by exploring how the addition of ‘a manager’ in the group setting would impact the findings and found that the manager was more likely to ask female participants to volunteer to take the hit, than ask their male counterparts. The researchers from the study state:
“Our studies demonstrate that although neither men nor women really want to volunteer for thankless tasks, women volunteer more, are asked to volunteer more, and accept requests to volunteer more than men. These differences do not appear to result from gender differences in preferences, but rather from a shared understanding that women will volunteer more than men.”
Using this study as an example, it is clear that when it comes to housekeeping tasks in the office, women are more likely to either volunteer to do the task or are more likely to be asked to do so by a male, regardless of their seniority in the business.