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Aruna Ranganathan/Erb Colloquium

April 22 @ 9:48 am EDT

Leading by Doing: How Female Supervisors Motivate Worker Productivity through Subordinate Scut Work

Aruna Ranganathan is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business

Abstract: Using ethnographic, personnel, and field experimental data from an Indian garment factory, this paper investigates whether manager gender affects worker productivity and if so, how. We argue that female managers motivate greater worker productivity than male managers in female-typed workplaces by performing subordinate scut work – routine tasks of their subordinates – which increases subordinates’ engagement with their work. We posit that female managers are more likely to do subordinate scut work in female-typed workplaces and are more effective than male managers when they do, given the female-typing of their subordinates’ tasks.

Our qualitative data help to generate hypotheses that we test using (a) personnel data on individual worker productivity, where workers experience quasi-random switches between male and female supervisors, and (b) a lab-in-the-field experiment, where we experimentally manipulate supervisors’ ability to perform subordinate scut work. This paper contributes to the literature on motivating worker productivity by drawing attention to the important role of manager gender and by studying a female-typed workplace. The paper also contributes to the literature on gender and leadership by investigating objective worker productivity and uncovering subordinate scut work as a novel managerial practice that fosters engagement with work and improves worker productivity.

Professor Aruna Ranganathan spent her childhood in the Middle East, India and Singapore before graduating with honors from University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business with a B.Com in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources in 2006. She also received an MS in International and Comparative Labor from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in 2008 and an MS/Phd in Management from MIT’s Sloan School of Management in 2014. Her doctoral dissertation, “Working with Your Hands: Essays on Craft Occupations in India” explored the intersection between economic sociology, the sociology of work and industrial relations.


April 22, 2024
9:48 am EDT
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