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New Research From MIT SMR Finds Women Are 41% More Likely to Experience Toxic Culture Than Men

The Toxic Culture Gender Gap has Widened Since the Pandemic

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 14, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- According to new research released today in MIT Sloan Management Review, women are 41% more likely than men to experience toxic corporate culture. The toll of the pandemic appears to have widened the toxic culture gender gap. Over the six years from 2016 to 2021, women were 35% more likely to negatively mention toxic culture compared to men.

Across self-reported C-level roles, women are 53% more likely to experience toxicity than men.

"The compensation gap between women and men has rightly generated a lot of attention. National Equal Pay Day, which falls on March 14, 2023, highlights the difference in average compensation by marking the number of extra days a woman has to work to earn as much as her male counterpart," said lead author Donald Sull, senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and cofounder of CultureX, a company that uses AI to measure and improve corporate culture.

"For many women, the gender gap in toxic culture may have an even more profound impact on their day-to-day experience in the workforce. If an Equal Culture Day existed, based on the additional days of toxic culture that women suffer, it would occur on May 30 ? more than two months after Equal Pay Day."

In "Toxic Culture Gap Shows Companies Are Failing Women" Donald and Charles Sull examine which elements of corporate culture are most critical to women and where the biggest shortfalls in culture are. They found that women are slightly more critical of most elements of culture and the employee experience, like collaboration and work-life balance, than men. But one topic they studied had a much more pronounced gap than the others: toxic culture. The authors defined toxic culture as disrespectful, non-inclusive, cut-throat, abusive, and unethical behavior in their previous research.

"Toxic culture is not only an outlier in terms of the sentiment gap between women and men, it exacts an enormous toll on organizations and individuals," continued Sull. "In our work advising firms on how to fix toxic cultures, we have found that leaders who successfully narrow the toxic culture gap begin by focusing on the employee experience and identifying and rooting out toxic behaviors across all levels of the organization through a sustained cultural detox effort."

Why do women speak so much more critically about toxic culture than men? One might expect mentions of gender equity and sexual discrimination to account for most of the gap ? and women are indeed significantly more likely to negatively mention these topics than men. This accounts for a relatively small portion of the gap, though. The researchers found that women are also significantly more likely to negatively mention other kinds of diversity and inclusion ?  including racial, disabled, and LGBTQ+ equity, favoritism, disrespectful behavior, cutthroat competition, and abusive behavior than men.

Additional findings of note, include:

The authors analyzed the language that more than 3 million U.S. employees used to describe their employer between 2016 and 2021 in their Glassdoor reviews. From this large sample size, comments were classified into nearly 200 granular topics related to corporate culture, leadership, and employee experience. Topics were aggregated into two dozen broad themes that shape the employee experience and then measured according to how frequently men and women mentioned each topic and theme, as well as how positively or negatively they talked about them.

Additionally, to better understand how the situation has changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors also analyzed a subset of 600,000 reviews from 2020 through 2021. They use the post-COVID data set for most of the analyses presented.

The MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT SMR) article, "Toxic Culture Gap Shows Companies Are Failing Women" publishes 9 a.m. EST on March 14.

About the Authors
Donald Sull (@culturexinsight) is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he directs the Strategic Agility Project and the Culture 500. He is also the cofounder of CultureX, which leverages proprietary AI to measure and improve corporate culture. The Economist identified him as one of the most influential thinkers in business management over the past century.

Charles Sull is the other cofounder of CultureX, where he advises C-suites from some of the world's largest organizations about the best ways to measure and improve culture. He has published several articles about related research in leading journals, including MIT Sloan Management Review.

About MIT Sloan Management Review
MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT SMR) is an independent, research-based magazine and digital platform for business leaders, published at the MIT Sloan School of Management. MIT SMR explores how leadership and management are transforming in a disruptive world. We help thoughtful leaders capture the exciting opportunities ? and face down the challenges ? created as technological, societal, and environmental forces reshape how organizations operate, compete, and create value.

Connect with MIT Sloan Management Review, on:

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SOURCE MIT Sloan Management Review

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