Firm Culture: Can Information Interventions Reduce Gender Gaps in Online Labour Markets?

Evidence from online labour markets in Africa suggests significant gender gaps exist in application and hiring patterns. Women tend to be more qualified, by education, for the jobs they apply to than men, but less qualified, by years of experience. Women apply to fewer jobs and lower-level jobs than men, even when they are more educated for the position on average. Women are also less likely to be hired for a position than similarly qualified and educated male counterparts. Why do we observe these gender gaps in application and hiring? And can low-cost information interventions help reduce these gender gaps in online labour markets? This project will examine the matching behaviour of applicants and firms, and the role of ICT in easing frictions and gender gaps, using evidence from a new, unique dataset from the largest online hiring platform in Nigeria.

Archibong et al. will conduct an RCT with three treatment arms to address the research questions. In the first treatment (information), 6,000 applicants on the online hiring platform will be randomly provided with accurate information in job ads based on descriptive analysis on gender gaps in application patterns (e.g. “Women are less likely to apply for a job than men, despite being equally qualified for the job"). In the second treatment (signalling), 100 firms will advertise open positions and candidates, who have initially expressed an interest in the role, will be shown a randomised message about a key feature of the job/application (e.g. flexible working conditions or "Women are encouraged to apply"). Both of these treatments seek to increase the share of female applicants and hires. In an extension of the second treatment, hiring managers at the same 100 firms will be asked to rank fictional applicant profiles which vary by the candidates' work experience information and gender. The researchers will then assess the interview and hiring responses of managers to real profiles shortlisted by the online hiring platform staff in line with the hiring manager’s fictional profile rankings. The project will keep track of hired candidates to examine employee/firm productivity outcomes in future work. Lastly, a third treatment group will randomise the information and signalling treatment to examine any potential complementarities.

Rising access to ICT and internet connectivity across Africa and the introduction of online hiring platforms in many countries, particularly in urban labour markets, have helped to improve labour market outcomes and alleviate frictions. Given the proliferation of these platforms, it is important to examine their distributional effects by gender. This is especially important in developing country contexts where restrictions on women’s welfare and mobility may increase barriers to employment. By explicitly focusing on the barriers faced by women on these platforms, this research will inform policymakers and firms on the gender gaps in application patterns and how these can be alleviated to maximise positive impacts on female labour force participation.


Belinda Archibong

Barnard College

Francis Annan

University of California, Berkeley

Oyebola Okunogbe

World Bank

Anja Benshaul-Tolonen

Barnard College