Monday, December 5, 2016

On Her Account: Can Strengthening Women’s Financial Control Boost Female Labor Supply? With Simone Schaner

As financial inclusion and FinTech have taken on greater prominence, governments must grapple with how to best enable women’s economic empowerment. This week’s WAPPP seminar featured Simone Schaner, Assistant Professor of Economics at Dartmouth, as she presented the results of a randomized controlled trial to assess how financial inclusion coupled with targeted benefit payments impact women's labor force participation and economic welfare in India.

Professor Schaner began with a central question: Why aren’t women in emerging economies participating in the labor force? Female labor force participation has been basically stagnant despite sustained economic growth in India. However, 34% of rural non-working women say that they would like to work, and employing these women would increase female labor force participation by 80%. What is keeping them out of the formal labor force?

When we think about labor force participation, we often think about demand-side constraints – are there jobs available for those who want them? However, in this case supply-side constraints may be especially important. Women face strong gender norms and limited household bargaining power that curtails their ability to participate in the labor force. Economists think of these social constraints within a utility model: individuals may experience a utility loss if they violate a gendered behavioral norm that is upheld by the community. In the Indian context, if a woman works, it may signal that her husband has failed as a breadwinner. Even if women want to participate in the labor force, this threat of utility loss may keep them out. Data from the World Values Survey demonstrates that female labor force participation correlates with men’s and women’s attitudes toward female work. Where both men and women are supportive of working women, we see greater female labor force participation; as the gap between male and female attitude increases, female labor force participation decreases.

This particular research project focuses on poor, married couples in India who are potential beneficiaries of the public workfare program NREGS. The community exhibits strong norms against female work and mobility—only 38% of women report having gone to village market by themselves in last year. NREGS guarantees every rural Indian household 100 days of paid work at a fixed minimum wage facilitated by the local government. When these women participate in the NREGS workfare program, their wages are paid into their husbands via bank transfers. This study investigates whether strengthening women’s control of NREGS wages can increase female participation in the NREGS program and in the labor force more broadly.


Women in the field experiment were divided into five groups with two “flavors” of financial inclusion.  In the “Accounts Basic” group, the study team opened low-cost, no-frills bank accounts at community banking kiosks. After their paperwork was processed, the women in this group were taken back to the kiosks to demonstrate deposits and withdrawals. In the “Accounts Plus” group, the women also received a group-based training session that emphasized what a bank account is and what can be done with it (receiving benefits transfers like NREGS, the importance of saving, and how money kept in a bank account is safe). In two additional groups “Accounts Basic Linking” and “Accounts Plus Linking,” the women received the same services described above, but their accounts were configured such that their NREGS wages were paid directly into their accounts, rather than their husbands’. The fifth group, a control, received no financial inclusion services or training. This design allowed the research team to examine how control over NREGS wages impacts female labor force participation while holding financial inclusion (including access to banking services) constant.


Initial survey data revealed that women in the study had opened accounts, but rarely used them. In the Accounts Basic group, 17% of women had been to the bank in the last six months, compared to 10% in the control group. While this figure was somewhat higher in the Accounts Plus and the Accounts Plus Linking groups, these accounts were only used occasionally. However, this intervention had a major impact on women’s bank balances. For women who received NREGS payments, they received an average of $61 – 26% of a woman’s non-NREGS average annual income. While it’s not clear that this additional income is sufficient to change household bargaining power, the intervention certainly increased women’s control of assets. Women in the Accounts Plus Linking group also increased their labor force participation – they did more work in the NREGS program and also did more work in the private market.


One possible mechanism for this shift is that the intervention increased a woman’s effective NREGS wages – while the official wage didn’t change, their increased control over their wages may have made NREGS work more attractive. However, if this were the case, we wouldn’t expect to see an increase in private sector work as well; NREGS work would have been more attractive at the expense of private sector work paid in cash. Similarly, when women’s bargaining power increases, economic models say that they will consume in terms of consumption and leisure, so we wouldn’t see the increase in both NREGS work and private labor. However, this standard model completely ignores the importance of norms – specifically here, the male preference that their wives don’t work. If men hold these preferences and yet women’s bargaining power increases, then we would expect to see this across-the-board increase in female labor force participation. Indeed, these effects are stronger for women who were constrained (not working) before the study began.


Strengthening women’s control over government workfare benefits increases participation in workfare and increases work on the private market. There is some evidence of increased female mobility and no evidence of male backlash in terms of reduced decision-making power, gender-based violence, or negatively impacted mental health. The broader implication of this study is that the impacts of female empowerment on female labor force participation may vary depending upon the extent to which men and women internalize gender norms and social constraints. The study team is planning a richer data collection to come, and we look forward to hearing additional results!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The History of the "Mommy Track" with Elizabeth Singer More

In the age of Lean In, we continually interrogate the differences between men and women’s experiences at work. Do these differences arise from gender discrimination, or do working women simply have different work/family preferences than their male colleagues? These questions have a long history, and the debate over sameness and difference can help to illuminate the relationship between feminism, women, and work. This week’s WAPPP seminar feature Elizabeth Singer More, WAPPP Fellow and Associate Director of Open Circle Jewish Learning at Hebrew College. A historian of women, work, and the family, Professor More discussed the history of the “mommy track,” tracing in particular the controversy over Felice Schwartz’s 1989 Harvard Business Review article “Management Women and the New Facts of Life.”

The issue of sameness versus difference was a significant dispute for feminists in the 1970s and 1980s, and was thrown into sharp relief in the case of EEOC v. Sears Roebuck & Co. The case was brought on behalf of women who were denied commission sales jobs based on management’s assumptions about women’s preferences, personalities, and skills. Both sides in the case called experts, who alternately described the disparity between male and female employees as the result of discrimination or of women’s voluntary cultural patterns. Some women, one side argued, were “like” management men; that is, they were willing to work long hours, travel, and sacrifice time with their families in order to advance. Other women were different than their male colleagues. They wanted to work but also wanted to have children and were willing to sacrifice advancement at work to take time off and raise their families. The case went on in this vein, with one side presenting “natural” dichotomies between men and women, such as women being more concerned with nurturing and men with work, while the other maintained that women’s historical labor market behavior was established just as much by lack of opportunity as by a different set of preferences. These arguments emphasized the economic consequences of the sameness/difference question for working women.

Against this backdrop, Schwartz published her article, “Management Women and the New Facts of Life.” Schwartz was the founder of the nonprofit Catalyst Institute, which in the 1970s had worked to help housewives enter the workforce. By the 1980s, the Institute regularly advised corporations on attracting, retaining, and advancing female professionals. Schwartz saw this article as part of the same project. Addressed to executives, the article laid out a business case for hiring women, but encouraged executives to identify female employees early on as “career-primary” or “career-and-family.” “Career-primary” women should be given the same opportunities as any male employee, but these women would have to remain “single or at least childless.” If they did choose to have children, they would have to be “satisfied to have others raise them.” These women, Schwartz said, would cost corporations more to employ.

“Career-and-family” women would be relegated to the derisively-labeled “mommy track.” Corporations, Schwartz’s argument went, could better retain women in whom they had invested training if these women could be permitted to balance work and family. Women who took long maternity leaves should be encouraged to return to work; corporations should provide flex time, part-time, and job-sharing options; and companies should assist with day care. In exchange for these supports, women on the mommy track would have to accept that their ascension up the corporate ladder had halted, or at least paused. Schwartz argued that this arrangement would help women and employers – women would be able to maintain professional and family lives, and employers would accrue talented middle managers who were grateful to be where they were.

Schwartz argued that not all women have the same desires. Some want to put their careers first, and so the automatic association of women with babies is unjustified. However, by drawing on the language of sameness and of difference, Schwartz angered both sides. Painting women as ambitious non-caregivers or as complacent nurturers – combined with the assertion that management women are more costly to employ than men – caused an uproar. The Harvard Business Review printed 22 pages of letters in response to her 14 page article, most of them critical. Schwartz’s critics argued that she was incorrect in the facts or that the facts she cited were entirely unsubstantiated and that her article reinforced stereotypes that hindered women in their professional lives and men in their family lives. In trying to reconcile opposing feminist philosophies, she pleased only male executives, who loved the article.

Professor More points to an article by legal theorist Joan Williams, published the same month as Schwartz’s article, to further underscore the difficulty of reconciling feminism and market-based policymaking. Williams took issue with both sameness and difference feminism. She argued that sameness feminists don’t deal with how differences work to women’s disadvantage in a “gender-blind” system that is based on male life patterns. On the other hand, while difference feminism values women’s caregiving labor, in doing so it may perpetuate women’s economic marginalization. Williams called for the existing structures of work and family life to be totally rethought. The idea that women choose to become marginalized on the “mommy track” clouds the reality that all workers are stuck choosing between two unacceptable life patterns that we term stereotypically male or female. Where Schwartz was optimistic about negotiating on employers’ terms, Williams thought it was a feminist imperative to change the terms of work and family life.

Schwartz, for her part, was shocked and hurt by the critical reaction. Her article was dedicated to persuading corporations that it was in their own best interests to fight discrimination and institute family-friendly policies. However, her method for advocating these approaches was to argue that it was in business’s competitive advantage to be responsive to women’s needs. Whereas she had previously been forced to make an equality and justice argument – “Be fair and good to women and support us!” – she could now use a big-business logic in saying that if companies couldn’t attract, retain, and promote female talent, they would lose their competitive advantage and the bottom line would suffer. Where Schwartz saw a reasonable tradeoff for women – getting family-friendly working policies in exchange for pausing advancement – others saw institutionalized discrimination and a penalty for female workers for failing to conform to a male standard. Leaning heavily on a profit motive as an incentive to respond to women’s needs could also disadvantage women – in times of economic scarcity, female employees would lose their leverage and employers would have ready justification for firing women or favoring men.

In closing, Professor More emphasized that we cannot relinquish the justice and equality argument. We have to protect gains in equality even in times of economic weakness. As a WAPPP Fellow, Professor More will be completing her manuscript on the intellectual and political history of maternal employment in America from World War II through the mid-1990s. We look forward to hearing more from her and continuing these conversations!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Let’s go for human rights: VAMOS

By Margarita (Maggie) Salas

I am a lesbian feminist, a proud latina, a social activist, a university professor and, more recently, a Harvard graduate. I am a lot of things, but a politician was not one of them. I care deeply about inequality, I’ve dreamed about achieving equal rights for all in my country, I have fought for it with every bit of energy my soul could muster. I came to Harvard because I felt we were moving too slow on issues that were just too urgent to wait that long. I felt we needed to fight smarter, not harder, to achieve our rights. I needed a bigger lever, and as a social movement advocate, I would have never thought that a political party was the lever I was looking for.

Maggie Salas, HKS M/C MPA '16 and WAPPP Oval Office '16

The idea of starting a new political party in Costa Rica was born at WAPPP, at the Oval Office Program, during our friday sessions sitting around that breakfast table, listening to the stories of brave women who had taken a leap of faith in themselves and had run for office, learning the skills and insights needed, talking about our future. G.Reid once said: “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal, a goal broken down into steps becomes a plan and a plan backed by actions makes your dream come true”. Sure enough, as each friday session passed that idea went from being a whisper in the back of my head to a roaring urgency that ran through my veins. I started reaching out to my partners in crime back home. Was this unthinkable? Was I crazy? Nobody seemed to think so, and every phone call was met with excitement, energy and willingness. A spring break visit in March 2016 was our first meeting, a dozen determined individuals decided that we would run for congress in 2018.

We were eager, hopeful and over all committed to do the work needed to build a political party from scratch. Many of us came from social movements and brought with us a horizontal decision-making culture, where ideas are discussed first and potential candidates much, much later. We each started inviting other trustworthy people interested in the issues, and before we knew it our numbers doubled and tripled. The following months we met every weekend to discuss our agenda. We became best friends with google docs and wrote many pages together, detailing our proposals, working in break-out groups, coming together for long sessions, reviewing obsessively every proposal to make sure we knew where we agreed and where we didn’t. We learned a lot from each other those days, and agreed on a broad agenda that included compact sustainable cities, access to ALL human rights, modernization of our criminal and drug policies, better labour opportunities and secularization of the State, as well as a transition towards a parliamentary regime.

We held our constitutive assembly on September 25th, bringing together 100 enthusiasts that stamped their signatures and elected me as the party president. We planned our official press release for October but our secret was in the wind and we started receiving refugees from several political parties, young people who were disappointed by other initiatives who would always sideline the human rights agenda and felt thrilled that a new political party was in town and willing to call things by their names and open up participation.

October 19th will remain in my memory as one of the most exciting days of my life. We spent many days preparing our spokespeople and inviting the media. A week before, the story was leaked to one of the major radio newscasters, who woke me at 6:30 am to confirm whether the news were true. The cat was out of the bag and far from deterring media, this just stirred-up even more interest and we had a full house on October 19th. We were covered by several newspapers, radio and television channels during the whole week. Our facebook page exploded and garnered our first one thousand followers in roughly over 24 hours and 100 people signed up as volunteers on our web page.

We decided to call the party VAMOS, because it’s a call to action and our country needs to move. VAMOS means let’s go, and we want Costa Rica to go for full human rights, to go for sustainable cities, to go for a modernized State. Spanish is a beautiful language in which the verb contains the subject that it calls to action. VAMOS is conjugated in plural, because we don’t want to go alone, we want us, all of us to go together, towards the country we dream and deserve. VAMOS!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Latinas Are Disproportionately Affected by the Gender Pay Gap Earning Almost Half

By: Lili Gil Valletta and Mónica Ramírez

As a result of increases in public consciousness produced by the efforts of activists over years and even decades, the gendered wage gap is a well-known phenomenon, and rising as a priority concern among women workers and allies. However, while much attention is given to the overall wage gap among women at large, the gap is significantly larger for the segment of women who - according to the U.S. Census - are contributing to over half of the overall U.S. population growth: Latinas.[1] Latinas earn 54 cents to the dollar earned by white non-Hispanic males, totaling over $1,000,000 in lost earnings by one Hispanic female over the course of a 40-year career. The average pay gap for all women is 80 cents to the dollar. These are $1,000,000- multiplied by the more than 26 million Latinas in the U.S. who fall short in their ability to save, invest, spend and build wealth. For immigrant and undocumented women, the pay gap is even wider. This problem is longstanding over many years. This is a concerning issue that has an impact on the U.S. economy at large.
Recent data analysis conducted by CulturIntel™, a proprietary methodology that utilizes advanced data extraction, machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques, highlights differences in the way women discuss career opportunities and pay across ethnic segments. Mining over 300,000 discussions by Hispanic women over the past twelve months across digital platforms, including blogs, topical sites, social media, message boards and other online platforms provides valuable quantitative understanding of a large-scale qualitative input.
Interestingly, Latinas were mostly focused on two primary topics: good pay and job availability. The topic of equal pay actually ranked last representing only 12% of the discussion, even though Latinas fare worse versus all other women in equal pay. This is not surprising considering that workplace norms may dissuade workers, including Latinas, from discussing topics, like equal pay. Conversely, 39% of the discussion by Latinas focused on just getting good pay versus 27% of all women and 35% on discussed job availability versus 25% of all women. This data may suggest that Latinas may face an even more fundamental upstream gap in their careers perceiving less job availability for them and good pay. A hypothesis may suggest then, that once they do overcome this hurdle of “getting the job” the issue of equal pay may not be a known factor or one that is readily discussed.
Source: CulturIntel™ (2016) a toolset of advanced data extraction, machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques analyzing 12 months of digital discussions about career and pay among women. Based on an analysis of 3,485,485 overall women’s discussions, including 301,485 identified Hispanic women. October 25, 2016.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that Latinas represent about 14.7 percent of the women in the U.S. workforce - an estimated 10.7 million workers - meaning that the harms of this gendered wage theft are distributed across millions of families, affecting their current wellbeing and future opportunities of both parents and children. Wage theft committed against women workers is a significant contributing factor toward the current scenario in which 42% of all Latinos earn poverty-level wages and Latino children are among the largest number of children in poverty in the U.S. by race or ethnicity. 
For the average full-time Latina worker, the wage gap costs more than $26,095 dollars every year. In some large states, the wage gap is even steeper. 
What are some of the factors that contribute to this problem? Some employers under value the contributions of Latina workers. Others may know their value, but may not believe that Latinas will stand up for their rights. Latinas also tend to be employed in some of the most dangerous and least compensated jobs in the nation, including agriculture and janitorial work.
The concentration of Latinas in low-wage, difficult or low-status work is indissoluble from the issue of immigration status. Immigrants are pulled by jobs at wages that workers with legal status would not accept, and are coerced to accept lower wages by the implied or even stated threat of arrest and removal
Recent data indicates that non-citizen Latina immigrants earn just 37 cents to the dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic male workers. Because immigrant workers are often unfamiliar with their rights and fear deportation or employer retaliation, the problem is more difficult to assess and, in reality, may very well be even worse than these estimates.
We also see that Latinas are attaining higher levels of education that qualify them for higher-wage work, but take home pay is still reduced by wage discrimination. This means that we have more educated Latinas who are earning the same as white, non-Hispanic male workers who have little to no higher education.
Some think that women need to "lean in" in order to truly reap the benefits of their hard work and labor. However, for Latina workers, the racialized, gendered pay gap would literally cause them to fall on their faces with no safety net if they lean in any more. Latinas cannot lean in any farther, and leaning in is counter to many cultural norms. Latina workers are already becoming more educated and qualified than other workers in some industries, yet they are not being compensated equivalently for their work, their skills, and their talents.
Others argue that Latinas need to do a better job bargaining for compensation and benefits. While it might be true that workers could benefit from being encouraged to become their own best advocates when negotiating salary packages, employers should have a floor that it uses for all of its employees irrespective of immutable characteristics like race and gender. Certainly, these guidelines must establish that a worker should not be paid at half of another workers pay when she offers similar expertise and experience to the same work or position. Business ethics should require employers to set a compensation baseline for all workers based on the desired qualifications, not the ethnicity or sex of the people that they aim to employ. Further, the easy excuse that the worker was not skilled at asking for more should not be an acceptable justification.
Latina workers are not asking for any favors. They are simply asking to be treated with fairness and to be compensated equally for all that they contribute to the workplace and our nation's economy.

[1] The terms Latina and Hispanic are used interchangeably in this article.

Lili Gil Valletta is an award-winning entrepreneur, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and a regular TV contributor. She is the cofounder and CEO of CIEN+ (Formerly known as XL Alliance) a firm that helps organizations unlock the power of multicultural markets with research, creativity and purpose. She is also the creator of Dreamers Ventures, an alliance of investors and business experts that select, mentor and launch products created by Latinos to sell on Television- in partnership with HSN. Prior to launching her company, she had a 10-year career at Johnson & Johnson where she was one of the youngest executives, pioneered multicultural marketing initiatives and co-founded the Hispanic Employee Resource Group HOLA. In 2015 she launched CulturIntel™, a proprietary big data methodology that maps the consumer insights and their decision journey across cultural segments. CulturIntel™ has gained the recognition of news, academia and industry experts as a Game Changer of 2016 by MM&M, Top Innovator by PM260 and has been used by Fortune 100 companies and institutions like Harvard University to report unique insights. She is also the recipient of many industry awards including Top 40 Under 40 by PODER Magazine, LULAC Latina Achievement Award, New York's Top 25 Rising Latinos, ImpreMedia Outstanding Women, among others. She is a member of the Harvard Kennedy School Women’s Leadership Board, the YMCA USA Board of Directors and a mentor to the Stanford University Latino Entrepreneur Leaders Program.

Mónica Ramírez is a nationally recognized expert with more than two decades experience on the eradication of gender-based violence and the promotion of gender equity on behalf of Latinas, farmworker and immigrant women. Since 2003, she founded two ground breaking legal projects aimed at ending workplace sexual violence and other forms of gender discrimination against migrant farmworker and low-paid immigrant women for Florida Legal Services and the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition, she created the award-winning Bandana Project. In 2012, she joined Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. as its Deputy Director, where she provided vision and leadership on CDM’s migrant women’s project, among other responsibilities. In 2015, she became the first Director of Gender Equity and Advocacy for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 40 preeminent Latino organizations in the United States. In addition to her role at NHLA, she joined forces with the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) as its Director of Gender Equality and Trabajadoras’ Empowerment to help further LCLAA’s work on the Trabajadoras (Latina workers) campaign. Mónica serves on the Board of Directors for the National Farmworker Women’s Alliance and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s (NLIRH). She is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago, The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Monday, October 24, 2016

How to Elect More Women: Gender and Candidate Success in a Field Experiment with Jessica Robinson Preece

Can political parties increase female representation in politics? This week’s WAPPP seminar featured Jessica Robinson Preece, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University and Co-Director of the Gender and Civic Engagement Lab. Professor Preece theorizes that political parties can affect both the supply of and the demand for female candidates. Women are recruited less often and less intensely to run for political office, despite the fact that recruitment may be especially important for women. Political parties’ recruitment efforts may affect the supply of women running for office. On the demand side, some voters hold stereotypes that can harm female candidates, particularly Republican women. However, elite opinion and rhetoric can shape these stereotypes. If political party leaders set a credible norm of gender parity in the party, they may be able to change stereotypes, influence voter behavior, and increase women’s representation in political office.

To test this theory, Professor Preece conducted an experiment in partnership with the Republican Party in a Republican-dominated state with very low levels of female representation. In this setting, the precinct caucus system selects delegates to the state nominating convention. Women comprise about 50% of caucus attendees, but historically only 20-25% of elected delegates.

The intervention in this case was an official letter to precinct chairs. Participants received one of four letters: a control letter asking chairs to ensure that people feel welcome; a supply letter encouraging chairs to consider and recruit women who would make good representatives to the convention; a demand letter that asked precinct chairs to read a paragraph at precinct meetings detailing the disparity in female attendees versus female delegates, along with a statement to the effect of “women here have good insights about the issues facing our families and communities, and our party would be stronger with more representation”; and a supply and demand letter that combined the language from both letters.

Of the precincts where the chair received the control letter, 37% elected at least one woman. In the supply and demand condition, 45% elected at least one woman. Proportionally, female delegates made up one-quarter of delegates from the control precincts compared with almost one-third of delegates from supply and demand precincts.

In the supply and supply and demand conditions, there was a statistically significant increase in the number of female candidates. In the demand and supply and demand conditions, the treatment successfully promoted norms of gender equality. Precinct chairs were more likely to say that there should be more women at the convention, and female candidates were significantly more likely to give a speech. If this treatment were to be replicated state-wide, it would bring an additional 230 women to the convention, a 25% increase!

Professor Preece conducted a replication study to test the external validity of the experiment. In partnership with YouGov, a nationwide sample of verified Republican voters received letters with either a control treatment, a demand treatment asking whether voters had heard Republican officials make statements encouraging Republicans to elect more women, a supply condition with extra female candidates on the ballot, or both in the supply and demand condition. Just as in the first experiment, voters in the supply and demand condition were far more likely to vote for a woman than those in the control condition.

In conclusion, political parties can increase women’s representation through active recruitment of female candidates and by setting norms and expectations of balanced gender representation. However, the largest effect occurs when parties do both. Significantly, quotas are not the only way to increase female representation, which is particularly important for increasing women’s representation in parties ideologically opposed to quotas.

Moving forward, Professor Preece wants to explore the rich observational data that came from the caucuses and the follow-up experiment. In particular, how to men and women in these entry-level elections present themselves as candidates? Both men and women talk about issues and qualifications, but in divergent ways. Male candidates are far more likely to talk about taxes and the deficit and their experience in business or military service. By contrast, female candidates talk significantly more about education and about being a homemaker or a parent. This difference in presentation influences who gets elected. In particular, the “double bind” is relevant for female candidates; female candidates with more feminine self-presentation are found to be more likeable but less competent, and voter choice tends to follow competence rankings. The “sweet spot” for voters is the supermom, who talks about being a mother while maintaining masculine self-presentation. We look forward to hearing more from Professor Preece going forward!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Consequences of Value Threat: The Influence of Helping Women on Female Solos’ Preference for Female Candidates with Michelle Duguid

At this week’s WAPPP seminar, we were delighted to host Michelle Duguid, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Professor Duguid is a key scholar of power and status-linked social identities in organizations. The impetus for her research agenda began with a project on the social, profession, and philanthropic networks of board of directors. Looking through years and years of proxy statements, she noticed that boards were initially homogeneous and gradually added a few members with some demographic diversity. Once these additions had been made, further diversity stagnated. These observations led to broader questions: how do high-status groups diversify, and what factors dampen further diversification?

As we know, female representation at the highest levels hasn't kept pace with representation at lower levels. What explains this discrepancy? Are men consciously excluding women? Or is implicit bias to blame? One solution t this problem has been to deliberately place a few qualified women at the top to act as “diversification catalysts” – these women are supposed to counter stereotypes about women in the workforce, serve as role models, and advocate for women in the hiring process. If this approach is working, Professor Duguid says, it's at a glacial pace.

It may be that female solos – the sole women in working groups -- actually discriminate against female candidates. In her previous research, Professor Duguid and her collaborators identified value threat as the mechanism underlying female solos’ decisions to select or not select female candidates. Value threat is concern about not being seen as valued member of the work group, which individuals are keen to avoid. When female solos are faced with a female candidate with superior qualifications, they tend to experience value threat. Female solos may feel that their reputation and social standing is under threat, assuming that the group will view this woman as more valuable. Despite this value threat, women who actively exclude other women are not seen in a positive light – they’re derided as insecure, selfish “queen bees” or “mean girls.”

Organizations may look to women who have helped other women in the past to help diversify their organization, under the assumption that if they have helped women in the past, they’ll be less likely to discriminate in the future. However, it’s possible that those who have helped women feel licensed to not select a female candidate over an equally qualified man. If a female solo has helped women in the past, she doesn’t have to worry about the negative identity implications of being a “mean girl” – she can discriminate with impunity. This moral licensing is common in other areas – pro-social behavior in one realm can permit questionable acts in another (individuals who purchase “green” products are less likely to give to charity, for example).

Group context is significant to whether (and how much) individuals experience value threat. In particular, Professor Duguid has found that group status is correlated with value threat. If female solos are evaluating female candidates to join their high-status group, they are much more likely to discriminate. In a high-status group, female solos selected female candidates 30% of the time, compared to 76% for female solos in low-status groups. In low-status groups, individuals are less likely to get the self-image boost or tangible benefits that would come from belonging to a higher status group, and therefore care less about what other group members think. With decreased value threat comes decreased discrimination!

With these findings in hand, Professor Duguid set out to test two main questions: 1) Are female solos in high-status groups who have previously volunteered to help women licensed to discriminate against female candidates? 2) To what extent can context reduce value threat, and are women who experience less value threat less likely to feel licensed to discriminate?

Study 1

The first study was designed to examine the effects of gender and helping on value threat and candidate preference. Professor Duguid set up a “high-status group,” enlisting the help of the Dean. Study participants were told that they would be a part of the Dean’s focus group on the success of the school’s admissions process in screening for high-quality candidates. In order to qualify for the focus group, they had to score well on a test. Half the group was told that they could volunteer to help a same-sex candidate who would be working on a similar study by providing strategies for the test. The other half, the control group, was not given an option to help. After taking the test, participants were given the names of the other members of their “group,” three participants of the opposite sex. They were then told that they could select who the next group member would be and were given a man and a woman’s name. When female participants volunteered to help, they chose female candidates significantly less than in the no-option condition. Male participants overwhelmingly chose male candidates in both conditions. Female participants reported far more value threat than male participants, which mediated the relationship between gender and candidate choice.

Study 2

The second study was meant to examine effect of numerical status and helping on individuals’ experience of value threat. In this study, female participants could volunteer to help other women, be assigned to help women, or not be given an option to help. Consistent with the first study, female participants who volunteered to help were far less likely to select female candidates than those in the no-option condition. However, female participants who were assigned to help selected female candidates more than those who volunteered to help. This finding lends credence to the idea that volunteering to help creates a moral licensing effect that permits later discrimination. This study also demonstrated the difference between female solos and female majorities. Female majorities identified far less value threat than female solos, which mediates the relationship between numeric representation and candidate choice.

Study 3

In the third study, Professor Duguid looked at deliberate helping. Would female solos be motivated to volunteer to help other women in order to later discriminate against female candidate without suffering the negative attributions associated with this behavior? Female participants were asked to pick a candidate in one of three conditions: 1) the female candidate was slightly more qualified than the male (female solos should be strategically motivated to help female candidates in order to license future discrimination); 2) the male candidate was slightly more qualified than the female candidate (we would not expect female solos to be motivated to help women – they could select the male candidate based on merit without fear of seeming discriminatory); 3) the female candidate was overwhelmingly more qualified than the male (female solos would not be motivated to help these candidates to license future discrimination – it would be very strange for them to not select the overwhelmingly qualified candidate). True to the researchers’ predictions, female solos were much more likely to help in the first scenario.

Study 4

The final study was designed to test whether reducing female solos’ experience of value threat would influence their perceptions of helping other women as a licensing opportunity. If female solos felt more valued, the logic goes, they would be less likely to discriminate. In this study, before selecting a candidate, one group of female solos was asked to list five reasons numeric minorities “would be concerned about not being seen as a valued member of the group.” The second group was asked to list five reasons numeric minorities “would be seen as valued members of the group.” The third group, the control, was asked to list five things about their previous day. In the first condition, female solos were significantly less likely to choose female candidates. However, in the second condition, female solos chose the female candidate approximately 73% of the time. When female solos feel valued, they are far more comfortable bringing another woman into the group.

These findings offer an answer to the question of why diversification at high levels has been so slow. If women don’t feel valued, it would be unrealistic for them to pull someone in who could be competition. However, understanding value threat means that organizations can take positive steps to increase representation and diversity. Professor Duguid recommends substantially increasing the diversity of decision-makers and increasing inclusion to ensure that people feel valued, not just representative of a group.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Right to Rule and the Rights of Women in Victorian Britain

Female leaders often inspire a role model effect: their achievements can help close the gender gap in aspirations and educational achievement. But how can gender equality advocates best use these role models to advance their cause? In this week’s WAPPP seminar, Professor Arianne Chernock, Associate Professor of History at Boston University, discussed the relationship between Queen Victoria and British feminists in the 19th century campaign for women's suffrage and legal equality.

Despite her personal achievements, Queen Victoria was no fan of women’s rights. In an 1852 letter to King Leopold, she wrote, “We women are not made for governing, and if we are good women, we must dislike these masculine occupations.” In other letters, she referred to the campaign for women’s suffrage as “mad & utterly demoralizing” and expressed her sincere desire that “woman be what God intended; a helpmate for a man – but with totally different duties & vocations.”

Considered in isolation, these statements tell us little about how Queen Victoria factored into contemporary discussions about women’s rights. These statements were initially private opinions; her opposition to women’s rights wouldn’t have been known to the public until decades later. Few scholars have acknowledged this lag. Instead, the Queen’s personal opinions tend to dominate conversations about Queen Victoria and “the woman question” of the 19th century.

However, despite her personal opposition, Queen Victoria played a central and surprisingly sustained role in the Victorian feminist imagination. While the Queen herself kept a careful distance from anything gender-transgressive, Victorian feminists appropriated her image and leveraged her status as a female head of state to advance their movement for equality.

This strand of what Professor Chernock calls “royalist feminism” had tremendous influence. It was paradoxical that a woman could rule, while female subjects were denied most rights and privileges. For the sake of consistency, if not decency or enlightenment, they argued that rights had to be extended to women. The figure of the queen was very attractive as a point of entry into the conversation. The queen is a fact, not a fantasy, in British history. Royalist feminists could rely on the “wisdom of our ancestors” and appeal to tradition, rather than abstract reasoning, in advocating for gender equality. Professor Chernock notes that these are very appealing British logics!

Traditionalists in this period saw royalist feminism as a very salient threat that needed to be countered. These opponents of gender equality argued that queens had always ruled differently than kings and sought to emphasize Queen Victoria’s dependence on male advisors, especially Albert. They even began to assign a less disruptive past to Queen Elizabeth I, arguing that her male councilors and the male writers, explorers, and inventors of the Elizabethan period were responsible for the greatness of the era. Traditionalists used chivalric language to emphasize female frailty and to argue that the queen was in desperate need of guidance from “masculine hands.”

At the same time, there was a marked increase in demand for a purely ceremonial role for monarchs. Democratization and international pressures played key roles in this development, but gender was also a significant pressure. Female monarchs, it was argued, merely “reigned” rather than “ruled” – they did not lead armies or interfere in civil contests, but dispensed royal patronage in arts and education. This shift assigned feminine qualities to the role of the sovereign and downplayed the monarch’s authority. Rebutting this argument would require a strong defense of the crown’s prerogatives, which fewer were willing to articulate as democratization progressed and the boundaries of constitutional monarchy became more defined.

Once Queen Victoria’s letters were released to the public, anti-suffragists had a field day. In the Edwardian period, traditionalists continued to highlight Queen Victoria’s “diminutive” position in the state, as well as her own personal disdain for women’s suffrage. In Edwardian feminism, Queen Victoria was an entirely transformed figure, from emulatable role model to reactionary intellectual dinosaur.

Professor Chernock is currently writing a book on royalist feminists’ “creative, dogged, and unsuccessful” attempts to appropriate the queen for their purposes, as well as the cultural and political backlash to this movement that has had lasting political consequences.