Research on the Roles Women Play in Small Groups Wins Competition

May 14, 2010 Winning Researchers

A group of second-year MBA students from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business took the top prize at the Georgetown University Women’s Leadership Initiative Gender in the Workplace Research Competition in April. Their research examined why women tend to be “compilers” in small group interactions and the implications choosing this role will have on their careers.

The winning team included students Jennifer Bradley Heflin, Colleen Newman, Kelly O’Brien, and Brooke Ybarra, as well as executive mentor Deborah Kissire and faculty mentor Jeanine Turner. They began their research after observing that when working in groups, many of the female MBA students assumed responsibility for compiling the team’s deliverable before it was turned in. Their research sought to understand whether this anecdotal phenomenon was real, why women assume the compiler role, and the consequences of this choice.

Their research concluded that women overwhelmingly choose the compiler role; that women feel taking on this role is their way to add the most value to the group, though some use it to control, avoid risk, or to fit in; and finally, the role is not seen as critical to success within an MBA group, and women in the workforce must show strength in other skill sets to reach senior management.

At the event, undergraduate and graduate students from Georgetown University presented their research on gender issues in the workplace to a panel of successful businesswomen and research-trained faculty. Groups were judged based on the rigor of their research and the relevance of their findings. The research competition was sponsored by the Georgetown University Women’s Leadership Initiative and Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.