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New Research Shows That Women Get Less Credit When Working In Teams

Source | FastCompany : By Lydia Dishman

Teamwork makes the dream work, or so the old leadership bromide would have us believe. The catch is that all members of said team deserve credit for playing their part. However, a new study from a Harvard researcher indicates that in group work—as in pay, leadership, board representation, and other areas—there’s an inequity between women and men.

The findings by Heather Sarsons, a PhD candidate in economics, are published in a paper titled Gender Differences in Recognition for Group Work. In it Sarsons suggests that women aren’t receiving fair credit for their work, particularly when they are toiling beside men.

Sarsons notes that across industries, women are not only hired at lower rates than men, but once in, are held down by the glass ceiling. She points to research that indicates a variety of reasons for the inequity, including competitiveness, confidence, and the part childbearing can play. Fast Company has reported on similar findings, including that women aren’t being groomed for leadership positions in the executive suite, and women tend to be more cautious about taking promotions.

It’s hard to prove that discrimination is working against women up for promotions in a study because there are many variables that can’t be observed. So Sarsons decided to test a different theory. She explains that men and women working together in teams offers a snapshot into biases that affect women’s careers. Sarsons notes that teams give an employer “a noisy signal of each worker’s ability and he must make a judgment call as to who put in the most effort.” Unfortunately, she argues, the cacophony doesn’t help women get credit for their individual voice.

She tested her theory within academia, where she is experiencing the gender gap. One easy place to see if she was right is in the realm of published papers. Research findings are often coauthored, often to the detriment of the women contributing to them. “In economics, people often talk about it being dangerous for grad students to coauthor with professors because people assume the professor did all of the work,” she told , especially when authors are traditionally listed in alphabetical order regardless of their contribution.

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