Team Gender Composition and Team Productivity
Andrew Hill, Ph.D, MA, MCom, BSc, Assistant Professor of Economics
Many goods and services are produced in teams. Team composition is clearly an important determinant of team productivity. There are arguments for why more diverse teams – such as teams with more equal gender ratios – may be more productive (Hong & Page, 2001), as well as why less diverse teams may be more productive (Beach & Jones, 2017). Several policies directly and indirectly affect team composition across a variety of settings in the US. For example, affirmative action in hiring, other than generating a more representative workforce or redressing past imbalances, may improve productivity if it generates more diverse teams and more diverse teams are more productive. On the other hand, more diverse teams may be less productive if diversity within teams generates frictions that are costly to overcome. To evaluate policies or goals that may affect team diversity, we need to understand how team diversity impacts team productivity. The goal of this project is to explore how one component of team diversity – team gender composition – affects team performance, and to explore the mechanisms through which it may do so.
The aims of this project are (1) to estimate the causal effect of team gender diversity on team performance and (2) explore the channels through which team gender composition operates. In doing so, this project will speak to the potential effects of policies such as affirmative action and more general, broader goals of representation that may affect team gender composition. Understanding the factors that promote or impede team members’ complementarity in production is important to ensure that any policies affecting team gender composition are designed to emphasize the productive elements of team diversity and mitigate any costly ones. For example, it may be the case that teams with balanced gender ratios are the most productive, but only if team members have common goals and information. In this context, affirmative action policies favoring the underrepresented gender may be optimal if they also promote information-sharing.
Significance of the Project
Gender representation in the workforce is a major issue in the US. For example, there is an extensive and ongoing discussion around the underrepresentation of females in the science and technology sectors. Several policies directly or indirectly promote a more gender-balanced workforce. First, this project will improve our understanding of how such policies may affect team productivity. And, second, it will inform how these policies could be designed to maximize benefits or minimize costs. In doing so, this project will help policy-makers assess existing policies and goals promoting gender representation, as well as inform the design of new ones.
 See, for an example from the popular media, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/08/why-are-there-so-few-women-in-tech-the-truth-behind-the-google-memo.