Women are 41% more likely than men to experience toxic corporate culture, according to research published March 14 in MIT Sloan Management Review.
The culture gap has grown in recent years, particularly during the pandemic. The gap doesn’t appear to narrow with seniority either. Across C-level roles, women were 53% more likely to experience toxicity in the workplace.
“The compensation gap between women and men has rightly generated a lot of attention,” Donald Sull, the lead author and a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said in a statement.
“For many women, the gender gap in toxic culture may have an even more profound impact on their day-to-day experience in the workforce,” he said.
Sull — and co-author Charles Sull — founded CultureX, a company that uses AI to measure and improve corporate culture. For the study, they analyzed the language that more than 3 million U.S. employees used to describe their employer in Glassdoor reviews between 2016 and 2021. They looked at two dozen broad themes, including topics related to corporate culture, leadership and employee experience.
Overall, they found that women were slightly more critical of most elements of workplace culture and the employee experience, such as collaboration and work-life balance.
However, toxic culture stuck out in particular, which was defined as disrespectful, non-inclusive, cut-throat, abusive and unethical behavior. Although women mentioned gender equity and sexual discrimination, they were also significantly more likely to negatively mention other issues related to diversity and inclusion — including race, disability and LGBTQ+ equity; favoritism; disrespectful behavior; cutthroat competition; and abusive behavior.
In a previous analysis by CultureX and Revelio Labs, a toxic corporate culture was the single largest contributing factor that drove resignations. In fact, it was 10 times more likely to contribute to employee attrition than unsatisfying compensation.
“Toxic culture is not only an outlier in terms of the sentiment gap between women and men, it exacts an enormous toll on organizations and individuals,” Sull said. “In our work advising firms on how to fix toxic cultures, we have found that leaders who successfully narrow the toxic culture gap begin by focusing on the employee experience and identifying and rooting out toxic behaviors across all levels of the organization through a sustained cultural detox effort.”