Gender disparities in leadership roles and wages persist globally, with underrepresentation of women in higher positions being a significant factor. While both supply and demand-side factors contribute to this imbalance, the role of preferences for flexibility remains understudied. This research aims to investigate whether the preference for flexibility contributes to the gender gap in promotions and earnings, focusing on a developing country context.
The primary research question is whether the preference for flexibility can lead to a gender gap in promotions and wages. By conducting a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) within a gig economy setting in India, this study aims to analyze the differential promotion acceptance rates, labor supply behavior, and income earned between men and women when offered varying levels of job flexibility upon promotion. This research will make a valuable contribution to the literature on gender wage gaps, particularly in developing countries with low female labor force participation rates.
The study partners with a prominent Gig Company in India (GCI) that provides services through a mobile app. This app connects customers with gig-workers for services like beauty and home repair. Workers have autonomy over their working hours and are eligible for promotions based on criteria such as experience and customer ratings. The company provided preliminary data from 15,000 workers, enabling a detailed analysis.
The study utilizes the promotions feature of the gig company to investigate gender differences in the trade-off between promotion and flexibility. The dataset revealed intriguing patterns: Promotion acceptance rates show that while both genders accept promotions from level 1 to 2, women are less likely to accept promotions from level 2 to 3. Income trade-offs highlight that level 2 women forgo a substantial income increase by not accepting promotions to level 3. Job completion rates indicate that women’s job completion rates are lower overall, but level 3 women exhibit higher job completion rates due to reduced flexibility. Interviews suggest that women decline promotions to level 3 due to decreased ability to decline inconvenient job offers.
Based on the findings, an RCT will be conducted with 2100 level 2 workers to investigate the impact of flexibility on promotion decisions. Participants will be randomized into three groups: (1) Level 3 promotion with low flexibility (control group), (2) Level 3 promotion with low flexibility and full information about income prospects, and (3) Level 3 promotion with high flexibility and full information about income prospects. The flexibility will be manipulated by varying the “soft target” provided by the company, affecting the number of job offers received.
The study will analyze the outcomes for each group to shed light on the impact of flexibility on promotion acceptance, labor supply, income, and willingness to return to a lower promotion level. The analysis will also explore variations in outcomes based on baseline characteristics such as marital status, children, education, and social networks.
This research seeks to contribute to a deeper understanding of how preferences for flexibility affect the gender gap in promotions and wages. By conducting a rigorous experimental study within a gig economy setting, this study aims to provide valuable insights for addressing gender disparities in developing countries.