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Faculty & Research


The B-Team: Team Prototypes and their Consequences for the Success of Gender-Diverse Groups

Working Paper
Teams are increasingly encouraged to diversify by bringing in more women and members of underrepresented minorities. Yet studies on the relationship between performance and demographic diversity have yielded mixed findings, and diverse teams often struggle when competing for scarce resources. Extending insights from the professional prototypes literature to teams, the authors propose a theory to explain why gender-diverse teams may incur a selection penalty. They argue that when quality is uncertain and decision-makers are selecting on potential for exceptional performance, they are more likely to fall back on culturally dominant schemas or prototypes. Thus, when existing models of team success are overwhelmingly male, the presence of women on the team may make the team less successful, not because this drives down objective performance, but because the team is no longer perceived as conforming to the ideal type. The authors test their theory using data from a university entrepreneurial pitch competition, and find that while teams with female participants receive similar evaluations for their business idea and are no less likely to place second, they are six times less likely to win the competition compared to all-male teams. Implications for diversity and inclusion in organizations are discussed.

Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour