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A Brief Social-Belonging Intervention in the Workplace: Evidence from a Field Experiment


Brief interventions that strengthen an individual’s sense of social belonging have been shown to improve outcomes for members of underrepresented, marginalized groups in educational settings. This paper reports insights based on an attempt to apply this type of intervention in the technology sector. Adapting a social-belonging intervention from educational psychology, we implemented a quasi-random field experiment, spanning 12 months, with 506 newly hired engineers (24% of the sample was female) in the R&D function of a West Coast technology firm. We did not find a statistically significant effect of the treatment on a core attainment outcome—bonus relative to base salary—that exhibited a significant gender gap, with women receiving proportionally lower bonuses than men. We did not find anticipated gender gaps in promotion rates or social network centrality, and we also did not find a statistically significant effect of the treatment of women on these outcomes. Drawing on meaningful differences between educational versus workplace settings, we identify four theoretical moderators that might influence the efficacy of social-belonging interventions adapted from educational settings into the workplace. Finally, based on the limitations of our study design, we provide four rec-ommendations that future researchers might adopt.

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