I was reading a paper today by Emmeline de Pillis and Kimberly Furumo that considered the hypothesis that men are more likely to be “deadbeats” on a virtual team than women. Deadbeats are described a “free riders” – people who are content to take credit for a group effort without doing any work.
They carried out an experiment with 201 people who were randomly assigned to either a face-to-face or virtual team of three people. They were trying to show that virtual teams have less cohesion than face-to-face teams and also that virtual teams have a higher percentage of non-contributing members (these were described as either deserters or deadbeats). Their results did show that there is less cohesion, less satisfaction, more time spent on a task, and more deadbeats within a virtual team. Most of the deadbeats were male but their results didn’t have statistical significance. The only deserters were male but again this didn’t have statistical significance.
I was aware that most studies show less cohesion in new virtual teams but I hadn’t really thought about gender issues. I’m going to have to read more papers on this area because Pillis and Furumo believe that virtual work is a particularly poor fit for the average male student. This concerns me. Most of the virtual teams I’m aware of are in the I.T. industry and they are predominately male. I want to know what it is about men that makes it harder for them to work in this environment and what can be done to improve their experience.