BOSTON (CBS) – Do you like working with the opposite sex? Is diversity good or distracting? Well, new research finds that workers today have a definite preference, but it might not be the best for business.
The days of men’s jobs and women’s jobs long ago went the way of the dinosaurs, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a happy workplace. MIT economist, Sara Ellison Ph.D. is the co-author of the new study. She looked at an unnamed Boston business with multiple offices, some staffed by a single gender, and measured what she calls “social capital.”
“Things like cooperativeness, happiness, morale,” she says. The results? “People seem to have higher levels of social capital in more homogenous groups,” says Ellison.
So they were happier, more content, when working with their own sex. Why? “People enjoy being with people who remind them of themselves,” says Lauren Stiller Rikleen from the Boston College Center for Work and Family and the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.
She calls that preference “unconscious bias.” “These are not male or female kinds of issues. These are about how we view people who are different than us,” she says.
But just because some people might enjoy working with others of the same sex, it doesn’t mean it’s good for the bottom line, or society. The MIT study finds that offices that are mixed: “Tended to be more productive. They had higher levels of revenue,” says MIT economist Sara Ellison.
They also showed greater innovation, performance and perspectives. “When you have diverse people at the table you get better decisions,” says Rikleen. “If this spurs more firms to think seriously about trying to increase gender diversity, I for one would be pleased,” says Ellison. “It’s great for business. It’s great for people,too,” adds Rikleen.
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