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Challenges of Change: An Experiment Promoting Women to Managerial Roles in the Bangladeshi Garment Sector

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  • Rocco Macchiavello
  • Andreas Menzel
  • Atonu Rabbani
  • Christopher Woodruff

Abstract

Women remain disadvantaged in access to management positions around the world. We conduct a field experiment with 24 large garment factories in Bangladesh to test for inefficient representation of women among line supervisors. We identify the marginal female and male candidates for supervisory positions and randomly assign them to manage production lines. Three sets of results emerge: (i) extensive diagnostic testing at baseline reveal few skill differences between marginal female and male supervisor candidates; (ii) initially, marginal female candidates have lower productivity and evaluations from sub-ordinate workers, though after four to six months, these gaps disappear; and (iii) the share of the female candidates retained as line supervisor after the trial is significantly higher than the share of female supervisors in the factories at baseline. This suggests that factories previously promoted fewer women than would have been optimal. Additional surveys and a lab-in-the-field experiment suggest that the initially worse performance stems from negative beliefs of workers about the abilities of female supervisors.

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  • Rocco Macchiavello & Andreas Menzel & Atonu Rabbani & Christopher Woodruff, 2020. "Challenges of Change: An Experiment Promoting Women to Managerial Roles in the Bangladeshi Garment Sector," NBER Working Papers 27606, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27606
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    Cited by:

    1. Chauvin, Juan Pablo & Tricaud, Clemence, 2022. "Gender and Electoral Incentives: Evidence from Crisis Response," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 12411, Inter-American Development Bank.
    2. Macchiavello, Rocco, 2022. "Relational contracts and development," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 116662, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Czura, Kristina & Menzel, Andreas & Miotto, Martina, 2024. "Improved menstrual health and the workplace: An RCT with female Bangladeshi garment workers," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 166(C).
    4. Erika Deserranno & Philipp Kastrau & Gianmarco León-Ciliotta, 2021. "Promotions and Productivity: The Role of Meritocracy and Pay Progression in the Public Sector," Working Papers 1239, Barcelona School of Economics.
    5. Akerlof, Robert & Ashraf, Anik & Macchiavello, Rocco & Rabbani, Atonu, 2020. "Layoffs and productivity at a Bangladeshi sweater factor," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1293, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    6. Abel, Martin & Buchman, Daniel, 2020. "The Effect of Manager Gender and Performance Feedback: Experimental Evidence from India," IZA Discussion Papers 13871, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Deserranno, Erika & León-Ciliotta, Gianmarco, 2022. "Promotions and Productivity: The Role of Meritocracy and Pay Progression in the Public Sector," CEPR Discussion Papers 15837, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Menzel, Andreas, 2021. "Knowledge exchange and productivity spill-overs in Bangladeshi garment factories," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 185(C), pages 721-746.
    9. Laura Boudreau & Julia Cajal-Grossi & Rocco Macchiavello, 2023. "Global Value Chains in Developing Countries: A Relational Perspective from Coffee and Garments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 59-86, Summer.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • M51 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Firm Employment Decisions; Promotions
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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