A male and female colleague traded email signatures for a week. What happened next isn't surprising.

Participants say the effects were more extreme than they expected

A recent workplace experiment shows gender bias is still very real for many women today.  

Here's what happened:

Two colleagues—one male and one female—had similar roles in their company. One day, the male colleague, Martin Schneider, accidentally sent an email to a client using the email signature belonging to his female colleague, Nicole Hallberg.

Schneider says he received a condescending response to the email. When he brought it up to Hallberg, she confessed to having, on occasion, done the reverse; she used Schneider's email signature when she wanted to receive quicker response times from clients.

Schneider and Hallberg decided to go one step further, switch email signatures for a week, and document the results. Schneider reported about the experiment on Twitter—and some of his tweets have since gone viral.

The results were more extreme than either of the two expected.

Related: The state of women in higher ed

"I had one of the easiest weeks of my professional life," Hallberg writes of the experiment. She says clients answered her more quickly, with significantly more respect, and her productivity greatly increased.

Schneider, on the other hand, experienced the opposite. He says clients took longer to answer his emails—and when they did, they would answer him in a condescending manner and question him incessantly. One client even went so far as to ask if he was single.

In the wake of the experiment, Hallberg says Schneider changed his behavior in the workplace, sometimes going out of his way to make sure Hallberg's ideas were heard.

Men must "recognize that [their] privilege is that [they] will automatically be listened to and automatically be taken seriously," writes Hallberg (Bolden-Barrett, HR Dive, 3/13; Hallberg, Medium.com, 3/9; Massa, City News, 3/11).

Related: Female professors less likely to be rated as "brilliant" or "genius," study finds


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