By Nicole Mueksch

Principal investigators
Amy Javernick-Will; Tony Tong

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Collaboration + support
Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering; Leeds School of Business; Cristina Poleacovschi of Iowa State; Sheng Wang of the University of Nevada Las Vegas

A recent study co-written by CU Boulder researchers shows that how people seek knowledge in the workplace might leave women disadvantaged in male-dominated fields.

Published in the Journal of Management in Engineering, the paper, written by professors Amy Javernick-Will (construction engineering and management) and Tony Tong (strategy, entrepreneurship and operations), found that women in the engineering field tend to ask more questions to gain information, and seek that information from other women. In contrast, men are less likely to ask questions, but when they do, they seek out other men.

In fields like engineering, where the workforce is 89% male, this could leave women disadvantaged for career advancement. Additionally, the researchers argue that not widely sharing knowledge across firms can harm the organization’s productivity.

As solutions, the researchers suggest promoting a culture shift that encourages sharing expertise and implementing a peer sponsorship program to pair colleagues with different backgrounds.

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