(Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint)
(Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint)

How modesty can prove costly for women

In interviews and other work settings, women tend to undersell abilities and experience when compared with men, shows a study

Gender imbalances in education and labour market are often attributed to societal norms and discrimination. Yet another factor could help explain why women fall behind: modesty. New research suggests women promote themselves less than men in job interviews and pay negotiations which can contribute to the gender imbalance in the workforce.

Christine L. Exley and Judd B. Kessler in a new study examine the gender gap in self-promotion by conducting a series of experiments among participants recruited on Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an online labour market. The experiments involved participants taking analytical tests and then assessing their performance.

When asked about their test performance by employers, women consistently provided a less favourable assessment of their own past performance and potential future ability than equally performing men. For instance, men claimed they had got 10.57 (out of 20) questions correctly when in reality they had scored 9.92. In contrast, women claimed they scored 8.45 when they had scored 9.82. Even when participants were told that their scores would not be disclosed to employers, the self-promotion gender gap persisted. Men over-reported their performance while women reported scores closer to their performance. The authors find that the gap is not driven by women wanting less pay: both men and women report similar levels of expected pay.

Finally, the authors find self-promotion pays off by increasing the chances of being hired on the platform and receiving higher wages. More generally, the authors argue that this gender gap in self-promotion could have significant implications for the entire labour market.

Also read: The Gender Gap in Self-Promotion

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