The Impacts of #MeToo Movement on Female Employees: Evidence from a Field Experiment

Last registered on October 14, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
The Impacts of #MeToo Movement on Female Employees: Evidence from a Field Experiment
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0006539
Initial registration date
October 13, 2020

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
October 14, 2020, 7:19 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Stanford Graduate School of Business
PI Affiliation
Peking University

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2020-10-01
End date
2021-04-01
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Social movements have the potential to shape individuals’ beliefs and behavior, as well as policies, and governmental response. The feminist movement that began in the 19th century in the US, for instance, has spread all over the world and fundamentally altered people’s attitudes towards women, including those of women themselves. This, in turn, has substantially improved women’s rights, voices, and socioeconomic status. In the proposed study, we seek to provide causal, micro-level evidence on how an introduction to anti-sexual harassment movements affects the beliefs, behavior, and workplace outcomes of the targeted populations.

Our focus is on the prominent #MeToo movement. Beginning with Tarana Burke who coined the phrase “Me Too” as a way to encourage women who had survived sexual violence to share their stories, it was made more famous by celebrities who bravely shared their misfortunes in social media. Many female victims of sexual violence joined the movement by sharing their own experiences and by publicly accusing the perpetrators. This movement helps victims understand they are part of a broader collective of women, and they are not alone in suffering sexual harassment. Moreover, it also helps remind women that by taking action to speak out against sexual harassment they might benefit others. In this study, we seek to address the following questions: Does information related to #MeToo movement affect women’s tolerance of, attitudes towards, and behavioral responses to sexual harassment? If so, how does this consequently affect women’s subjective well-being and workplace performance?

To this end, we have designed a randomized controlled trial in a large Chinese spa chain to evaluate the impact of the anti-harassment movement on female spa workers. Our setting is unusual and well-suited for studying the proposed questions. Although #MeToo has become a prominent social movement in the U.S. and many western countries, due to Chinese media censorship and a relatively low education level in the spa industry, many workers were unaware of and unaffected by this movement. This allows us to experimentally manipulate the information available to the subjects. It also allows us to avoid the potential backlash of women against #MeToo that might not align with it politically. Unfortunately, due to the nature of spa services, sexual harassment from customers is fairly common among female workers, which allows us to measure the effect of the anti-harassment movement in a timely manner.

In partnership with a leading multinational spa chain home-based in China, we conduct a 3-month field experiment with about 3,000 female workers in 154 stores. During the intervention period, we provide intensive information about the anti-sexual harassment movement to employees in randomly selected treatment stores. In the control group, we only provide basic information on harassment. The experimental and survey data collected before, during, and after the intervention, coupled with administrative data on worker background, performance, and retention, will allow us to assess both the short- and long-run impacts of anti-harassment information on employee well-being and performance.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Sterling, Adina, Hugh Xiaolong Wu and Huayu Xu. 2020. "The Impacts of #MeToo Movement on Female Employees: Evidence from a Field Experiment." AEA RCT Registry. October 14. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6539
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Intensive information about the anti-sexual harassment movement, including its background, progress, and influential case summaries, will be provided to employees in the treatment stores on a weekly basis. Whereas in the control group stores, we only provide basic information about sexual harassment (e.g. definition, clarification).
Intervention Start Date
2020-10-31
Intervention End Date
2021-01-31

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
female employees' action against sexual harassment, workplace performance, worker turnover and mobility
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
action against sexual harassment: 1. whether a worker takes action to stop sexual harassment when it happens 2. whether a worker reports to or seek help from the management when harassment happens;
worker performance: sales, repeated customers, compensation, attendance
worker turnover: whether a worker leaves the firm in a specific month

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
worker-level survey outcomes, including job satisfaction, mental health, pressure, preferences, and beliefs
Store-level performance, including revenues and profits
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We randomly assign half of the stores to the treatment group. Employees in these treated stores will receive a weekly message about the #MeToo movement through the company’s information system, including a brief introduction of the #MeToo movement, media coverage, and short stories of women who have spoken up. For the control group, employees will receive a weekly message about a basic introduction to sexual harassment.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization will be conducted by the firm using a random number generator.
Randomization Unit
Store
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
154 stores
Sample size: planned number of observations
About 3,000 female workers
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
77 treatment stores control, 77 stores treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Stanford University Research Compliance Office
IRB Approval Date
2020-08-01
IRB Approval Number
Waived by IRB

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials