Women's likability at work may contribute to gender wage gap: Study

Whether women like one another at work affects their cooperation, less evident among men

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Assumption of likability shows prominent effects in all-female environment (Unsplash photo)

Assumption of likability shows prominent effects in all-female environment (Unsplash photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A micro-study with 32 participants in Germany showed mutual likability in all-female or mixed-gender groups influenced the contributions from the members; this phenomenon is less apparent in all-male groups.

The authors of the study concluded that likability is either an asset or a hurdle for women in "every one of their interactions" in the labor market. For men, likability matters only if they interact with the opposite sex.

According to Science Alert, each participant in the experiment was given a photograph of their teammates and asked to rank them based on the first impression before they joined a game in pairs. However, each of them were told how their partners had rated them before they met, so a degree of mutual likability was set.

The game was about giving play money as a gesture of cooperation. In order to make any mutual progress, participants would need a level of trust, but the trust could also be exploited by either party.

The researchers found men gave slightly more on average. However, this shifted in single-sex groups: women who did not like each other contributed 30 percent less on average than those who did, which was a phenomenon not evident in all-male groups.

Only when men encountered women did low mutual-likability influence their willingness to contribute: men gave 50 percent less than if it was high, while women gave 37 percent less.

Researchers found in the experiment that women earned on average 4.36 percent less than men and 7.75 percent less than them when placed in same-sex teams. To diminish this bias in real work environments, the researchers suggest enterprises foster a 'likability-neutral' work culture, i.e., environments that highlight performance foremost.