Gender peer effects in the labour market: A field experiment in Indian call centers

Project Active from to Firms and Trade

Does the gender of one’s co-worker or peers have an impact on labour productivity? In the setting of developed countries, this question has been probed primarily in laboratory/classroom experiments. However, this research question is particularly important in traditionally patriarchal societies where gender is salient.

Gender segregation exists in many societies across South Asia, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa. According to the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) in 2011, over 58% of married women in India reported to be practicing purdah or the seclusion of women from public observation. Even in co-educational schools, peer groups are institutionally determined by gender through the segregation of boys and girls in classrooms. The result is that for many boys and girls, the very first prolonged interaction (as equals) with the opposite gender, outside of their family, happens in the workplace. Social interaction among opposite genders, therefore, is likely to lead to notable psychic costs in the workplace, negatively impacting a firm’s output if it comprises a gender-diverse employee pool.

Call centres are one such industry – they are the largest private sector employer in India, providing jobs to around 3.9 million people. A randomised controlled trial (RCT) is conducted to study the effect of gender diversity in a workplace on employee performance in the setting of call centres. The treatment differentiates the amount of exposure to the opposite gender through varying the gender composition of teams, compared to control groups of same-gender teams.