More men wanted – to complete the Workforce Mapping Project survey

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The Workforce Mapping Project survey is found at

The Workforce Mapping Project survey closes at the end of the month on Thursday 30th April. The Edinburgh Napier project team is keen to encourage those who work within the UK in roles associated with libraries, archives, records, information, and knowledge management, and who have not already done so, to make their contributions to the study.

The survey is very short – it takes under 15 minutes to complete – and one lucky participant will win £200 worth of vouchers as a thank you for answering the questions. We have had a good response rate so far, and are now eager to persuade members of the target population who are under-represented in the current cohort of respondents to join in the study.

We are in the fortunate position of being able to compare data about a large portion of the entire sample frame for this study with the data that we have gathered from the survey population so far. This is thanks to ready access to other data sources including figures from the Labour Force Survey, and membership data of the professional bodies associated with the study. Such comparisons have allowed us to determine differences between the anticipated respondent group sizes, and those that have materialised in practice, for a number of demographic variables. Currently it is male colleagues who are most obviously under-represented in the survey, hence this call for ‘more men’.

The realisation that we are ‘short of men’ prompted us to consider whether this is an artefact of our own study, or a factor that affects survey work in general. Of course we know that the majority of workers in some of the professions investigated in this research are female. Librarianship is a good example here. However, even taking this into consideration, the quantity of responses from men to the survey so far is lower than might be expected. It should also be borne in mind that the types of roles covered in the study include a number where there is a more equal gender balance, for example in knowledge management, or where there may actually be an imbalance in favour of men, for example information management.

My interest piqued in this question of gender differences and survey completion rates, this afternoon I read two interesting studies, one of which was published by Sax, Gilmartin & Bryant in 2003, and the other by Smith in 2008. Both studies include literature reviews which conclude that women more readily respond to calls to complete surveys in general. When these two sets of researchers conducted their own empirical studies (each described in their respective papers) they also found that they attracted a greater response rate from women than from men. Of particular interest in the study by Sax, Gilmartin & Bryant, which compared different factors likely to affect response rates, the strongest predictor of response rate was gender. Smith also seeks to explain the greater female participation in surveys. This is achieved in the first instance with reference to social exchange theory (which happens to be a theme on which I have published myself). Smith refers to the concept of the ‘connective’ self as one with which women more readily identify than men, and uses this as an explanatory factor of the different response rates of the two gender groups. He also argues that response rates are related to how men and women ‘inhabit’ cyberspace. While men are more likely to engage in online activities related to information seeking, women’s online habits are characterised by the communication and exchange of information. Given that survey completion comprises the communication of information (as oppposed to information seeking), requests for survey participation are more readily acted upon by women. So, on the basis of these two papers, it is perhaps not unsurprising that we have reached the point where we are putting out calls for ‘more men’.

Apart from men, we are also interested in seeing greater engagement from some other groups of workers in our study. If you fall into one of the categories below, or know others who do, please feel free to pass on the survey link (, and/or pass on the details of this blog post through social media channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook. We are looking from greater participation from people who meet one or more of the following demographic characteristics:

  • Sex: male
  • Regions: East of England, East Midlands and Northern Ireland
  • Domains of work: information management and knowledge management
  • Sectors: armed forces, commercial/business, law, national libraries and archives, schools
  • Level of work: frontline workers such as library, archive and information assistants, including volunteer workers

References and further reading

Goyder, J. (1987). The silent minority: Non-respondents on sample surveys. Oxford: Polity Press.

Moore, D. L. & Tarnai, J. (2001). Evaluating nonresponse error in mail surveys. In: R.M. Groves, D.A. Dillman, J.L. Eltinge, and R.J.A. Little (Eds.), Survey nonresponse, John Wiley & Sons, New York, pp. 197–211.

Sax, L.J., Gilmartn, S.K. & Bryant, A.N. (2003). Assessing response rates and nonresponse bias in web and paper surveys. Research in Higher Education 44(4), 409-432.

Smith, W.G. (2008). Does gender influence online survey participation? A record linkage analysis of university faculty online survey response behavior.

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