Published: December 14, 2020

Download: Life Course Centre Working Paper: 2020-29


Juliana Silva-Goncalves and Roel van Veldhuizen

Non-technical Summary:

Despite recent progress, there are still sizable gender gaps in labor market outcomes. Women and men choose different occupations, and women earn lower wages and are less likely to attain leadership positions even within a given profession. Therefore, better understanding and reducing gender gaps in the labor market remains an important policy goal.

In this study we test whether advice can contribute to sustain the gender gap in labour market outcomes. Many of the key decisions we make in our lifetimes are hard decisions that are made under a great deal of uncertainty. An example is the decision of which career to pursue. Many of us often rely on the advice from our family, teachers, career counselors, colleagues and managers to make that decisions. Although such advice can be helpful in many cases, we hypothesise that it may also generate or help sustain gender gaps in the labor market if advisers give advice in a gender-biased way.

We conduct an economic experiment where advisers advise workers to choose between a more ambitious and a less ambitious task based on subjective information about the quality of the worker. We expected female workers to be less confident and advisers to hold gender stereotypes, leading to a gender bias in advice. However, we find no evidence that women are less confident or that advice is gender-biased. Our results contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms driving gender differences in the labour market. They also call for caution when making general interpretations of research findings pointing to a gender bias in specific settings.


14th December, 2020