January 20, 2009 by Amit Bakshi

We don’t want to start a battle of the sexes with that headline, but we spent an afternoon playing around with the age-old — and often controversial — idea that men and women are not the same.  In the world of remote work, though, many of the perceived differences between genders shouldn’t come into play, right?  When all you’re seeing is the final product of someone you’re never going to meet face-to-face, all our cultural programming, habits and stereotypes shouldn’t matter: all the employer sees is the work.  With that in mind, we decided to check feedback scores to see whether there’s any perceived difference between the work done on oDesk by men and women.

Trouble is, oDesk doesn’t collect gender info from our remote providers — so we had to do it the hard way.  We took a sampling of 3,000 providers and divided the likely men (the Marks, Dmitriys, and Sanjays) from the likely women (the Jennifers, Olgas, Priyankas).  We threw out the names that could go either way (Robins, Shannons, Valeriys).  Here’s what we got:

# of Providers
% of Total
Female 580 17.29%
Male 2774 82.71%

The sample suggests that men outnumber women on oDesk by four to one.  Not surprising, since most of the professionals on oDesk are tech-related (like php programmers & ruby on rails programmers), and the engineering gender gap is well-known.  According to the National Science Foundation, fewer than 20 percent of engineering graduates in the U.S. are women.

However, it’s quality that we’re interested in, not quantity, so let’s look at the feedback provided by employers to their freelance professionals:

Average Feedback*
Female 4.404
Male 4.255
Male vs. Female Normal Curve

*These averages were computed with a standard error of 0.049, and are statistically significant with a p-value of 0.009 (for all the hard-core statisticians).

So there are the numbers, folks — women deliver the goods to their employers, 3.5 percent better, on average. (Gentlemen, that sound you’re hearing is thousands upon thousands of female remote workers cranking up Aretha’s “Respect.”) We know, of course, that in the real world, it all comes down to the individual you’re hiring, not how many X chromosomes he or she has. Still, we’re wondering whether any employers of remote workers would like to share their experiences.  Managers of provider companies that include small armies of remote workers might also chime in.  Have you noticed a gender-based difference, and did it contradict or confirm your expectations?

And hey there, remote-workin’ fellas — you may have the numerical advantage now, but our workplace for non-techie jobs is growing fast, so we expect more women to enter our marketplace in 2009.  You think the competition might start heating up?

Amit Bakshi

Vice President of Marketing at LawPivot

Amit Bakshi is the Vice President of Marketing at LawPivot. He formerly served as Product Marketing Manager for oDesk.

  • Ron

    I too am surprised that it is only 3.5% as I find women leave males in the dust in almsot everything they do. There are very few things women can not do that males can do and they can do all of them so much better tha us males.

  • http://www.linxhurricane.com Lesley

    I too am amazed that it is so low. Women tend to be better at the things that make a good outsourcer…in my humble opinion :)

  • Stephen

    I am amazed that it is only 3.5% – I have in the past twenty years of employing staff found that the best person for the job is always female !

  • V Mohan

    In customer relations female will outscore male for naturally supporting qualities and emotional over logical nature of people when they need support and help. Kaushal may augment performance of his department if he assigns a female to handle other females for a little while till he aquires a natural empathy/sympathy for all employees. That does not exclude supervision to make sure rules and regulations are imposed uniformly. Quality of his ops will improve if he can handle it. He may even get a promotion!

  • Marie

    Being female, an odesk provider AND buyer, I’d like to put my 2 cents in. First off, as the post already mentions, it all boils down to quality of work, not gender. However has anyone thought that maybe, some feminine qualities elicit positive feedback (whether unintentional or not)? Men tend to be quick, short and non-communicative. How often have you gotten a short email from a male colleague that gives no details? Getting a quick email from someone that says “no, not done yet” or “here you go”, without so much as a “hello, hi, how are you?” greeting or “warm regards”, can tend to have a negative connotation, whether or not the writer intended it to be. Women, on the other hand, almost always start an email with “Dear…” and will generally be longer and will try to sound as cordial as possible. Aside from feedback scores, what do the comments say? I’d be willing to bet that most of the female high-scorers have comments like “great communication!” or “very nice to work with”.

  • http://www.seorank.com.au Kaushal

    I am a manager for seorank, and I had very bad experience with females. I had to hire all the males in the office. Not sure if its the F effect, I mean female charisma effect or something else. I dont think its fair to measure the accuracy by client feedback, there are so many other factors to perfect work.

  • http://unboredme.blogspot.com lazyking

    Interesting post. I like to make some battle of sexes on my blog. I guess this will end it

  • eljuan

    From my perspective, a little gender balance in the cubicle floor would be a GOOD thing.