Understanding Gender Discrimination by Managers


Mencoff Hall 205

Christina Brown, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Chicago

Abstract: Pakistan ranks in the lowest decile in female labor force participation, and even in sectors where women are more prevalent, such as teaching, they earn 70 cents for each dollar men earn. While we have extensive evidence on the prevalence of gender bias in hiring, promotions and wages, we know less about the mechanisms underlying this bias and the extent to which certain personnel policies may mitigate or exacerbate these biases. To test this, I conduct a large scale field experiment with 3,600 employees in 250 schools and randomly vary i). how often managers observe a given employee and ii). whether manager evaluations affect employee’s pay or are just used for feedback. First, I find when there are no financial stakes associated with performance evaluations, there is no gender bias. This is true both using data from actual performance evaluations, controlling for the aspects of performance I observe, and for randomized vignettes varying the gender of the teacher. In contrast, when principals’ evaluations determine teachers’ end of year raise, we see that female teachers receive 10% lower raises, controlling for productivity. However, when principals are randomly assigned to conduct more frequent classroom observations of teachers, this lowers their evaluations of male teachers and results in gender parity in evaluation scores even under financial stakes. Combined this suggests that improving the accuracy of manager information could close the gender gap in performance evaluations, even in high stakes settings.

Bio: Christina is a development economist studying labor and behavioral economics questions. Her research examines labor and education market imperfections, especially around issues of asymmetric information. She is an Assistant Professor in the Economics department at the University of Chicago. She received a PhD in Economics from UC Berkeley and worked as a consultant for the World Bank and Save the Children. Prior to working as a researcher, she taught high school physics.