December 2020

IZA DP No. 13956: Using Social Recognition to Address the Gender Difference in Volunteering for Low Promotability Tasks

Ritwik Banerjee, Priyoma Mustafi

Research shows that women volunteer significantly more for tasks that people prefer others to complete. Such tasks carry little monetary incentives because of their very nature. We use a modified version of the volunteer's dilemma game to examine if non-monetary interventions, particularly, social recognition can be used to change the gender norms associated with such tasks. We design three treatments, where a) a volunteer receives positive social recognition, b) a non-volunteer receives negative social recognition, and c) a volunteer receives positive, but a non-volunteer receives negative social recognition. Our results indicate that competition for social recognition increases the overall likelihood that someone in a group has volunteered. Positive social recognition closes the gender gap observed in the baseline treatment, so does the combination of positive and negative social recognition. Our results, consistent with the prior literature on gender differences in competition, suggest that public recognition of volunteering can change the default gender norms in organizations and increase efficiency at the same time.