Gender Norms at Work: Impacts on Women’s Hiring and Workplace Experiences in Bangladesh

Gender norms, particularly in developing countries like Bangladesh, are a major constraint on women’s economic opportunities and their active contribution to economic development. In a collaborative research project with International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Monash University, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) will assess whether changing gender norms can affect hiring practices and productivity among employees by conducting a randomized controlled trial (RCT) among selected small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Additionally, it will provide causal evidence on the link between gender attitudes, employee interactions, and productivity in medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Researchers: Dr Narayan C Das; Dr Asad Islam; Dr Sheikh Touhidul Haque; Faria Tahmeen Momo; Nuzaira Binte Neaz; Raisa Rahman

Partners: International Development Research Centre (IDRC); Monash University

Timeline: 2023–2025

Status: Ongoing

Contact: Dr Narayan C Das;


Restrictive gender norms affect women’s economic empowerment by limiting their avenues for employment or advancement and creating unpleasant or unsafe workplace environments. Gender biases in hiring can also prevent firms from identifying high-quality female employees. Moreover, poor working conditions, hostile or unwelcoming work environments, and barriers to advancement increase employee turnover, generating additional recruitment and training costs. High rates of turnover are associated with lower levels of productivity and overall firm growth, and these effects may be the largest for small firms. As such, understanding gender norms at the workplace is of crucial importance to enhance women’s economic agency and promote gender equality at the workplace, benefiting both the employees and the firms.


The primary goals of this study are to measure gender norms among employees and managers and examine their relationship with day-to-day workplace interactions; test the impact of intensive workplace training on social norms and women’s workplace experiences, and consequently on workplace behaviour, including the recruitment, inclusion, and retention of female employees; and measure the impact of gender norms on productivity.


BIGD will conduct a randomized controlled trial on 2000 firms located across different geographic areas in Bangladesh, in both rural and urban areas. After measuring the gender norms, intensive workplace training will be delivered to randomly selected firms. The effects of this training will be evaluated on perceived norms, workplace behaviour and productivity through a combination of surveys and lab-in-the-field experiments. The training will focus on multiple elements, including workshops for employees and managers, video messaging through different role models, and facilitating coaching for female employees to share workplace experiences, successes, and challenges.

Findings and Recommendations