How an Oil Rig Shed its Macho Culture and Became Safer and More Productive
Can a macho workplace shed its machismo? It happened on an oil rig, that most macho of work environments, say researchers who found that crew members on an offshore platform toned down their bluster and macho as they concentrated on a company program to improve workplace safety.
The scholars—Stanford’s Debra E. Meyerson, and Harvard’s Robin J. Ely—say that based on the changes they saw on the oil rig, maybe the same can happen in any workplace. If so, companies could drastically alter their work environments and boost gender equity as well.
To study two offshore oil platforms, Ely and Meyerson conducted extensive interviews over 19 months with male employees of two rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, and sent a female member of their research team to work side by side with them for several weeks. Before Meyerson and Ely began their study, the corporate owner of the rig had launched an initiative to improve workplace safety to combat frequent on-the-job injuries. The safety program emphasized working together for the common good of the crew and taking personal responsibility. Although ratcheting down the machismo wasn’t a goal of the safety program, that did become one observed effect.
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