American University
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Do the determinants of participation in group business decisions differ by gender? The case of American labor -managed firms

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posted on 2023-08-04, 16:08 authored by Genna Ruth Miller

Labor managed firms are those firms that are both owned and managed by the workers themselves. Ideally, in such democratic firms, all workers participate equally in making business decisions. However, recent studies suggest that women participate less than men do in decision-making. In this study I examine the extent to which women in American labor managed firms participate less than men do and investigate the different determinants of men's and women's participation levels. A theory is applied here that suggests that the organizational features of labor managed firms are important determinants of participation. This theory assumes that women have a lower economic status than men do, with women having lower wages, lower shareholdings in the firm, lower skills, fewer leadership roles, and fewer hours worked at the firm. On the basis of these assumptions, it was suggested that the organizational features of firms have significantly different effects on men's and women's participation levels, causing women to participate less than men do. In order to test these theories, data was collected through a mail survey of American labor managed firms in 2001. The data showed that many of the assumptions concerning women's lower economic status are not valid for women in American labor managed firms. Due to this relative equality between American women and men, it was found that, contrary to previous studies, the extent of differences in participation levels between men and women is actually quite small. Women were not found to participate less than men do in overall decision-making, and were only found to participate less in the area of technical and production decisions. The survey data was also used to estimate participation functions that examined the effects of different variables, including the firm's organizational features, on men's and women's participation levels. Through these estimations it was found that some of the organizational features differ in their effects on participation by gender, while others do not. Specifically, policies regarding cross-training levels and decision-making styles used in the firm do not differ much in their effects on men and women. In contrast, wage differentials and the surplus distribution methods used in the firm both affect women's participation in the opposite way from the effects they have on men's participation. Similarly, increased rotation of leadership roles has opposite effects on men's and women's participation in some decision-making areas. The findings suggest that labor managed firms need to consider these different impacts on men's and women's participation levels when devising policies regarding the firm's organizational features. By implementing gender-aware policies, firms can encourage both men's and women's participation in decision-making.







Thesis (Ph.D.)--American University, 2003.


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