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Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?

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  • Muriel Niederle
  • Lise Vesterlund

Abstract

Competitive high ranking positions are largely occupied by men, and women remain scarce in engineering and sciences. Explanations for these occupational differences focus on discrimination and preferences for work hours and field of study. We examine if absent these factors gender differences in occupations may still occur. Specifically we explore whether women and men, on a leveled playing field, differ in their selection into competitive environments. Men and women in a laboratory experiment perform a real task under a non-competitive piece rate and a competitive tournament scheme. Although there are no gender differences in performance under either compensation, there is a substantial gender difference when participants subsequently choose the scheme they want to apply to their next performance. Twice as many men as women choose the tournament over the piece rate. This gender gap in tournament entry is not explained by performance either before or after the entry decision. Furthermore, while men are more optimistic about their relative performance, differences in beliefs only explain a small share of the gap in tournament entry. In a final task we assess the impact of non-tournament-specific factors, such as risk and feedback aversion, on the gender difference in compensation choice. We conclude that even controlling for these general factors, there is a large residual gender gap in tournament entry.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11474.

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Date of creation: Jul 2005
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11474

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  1. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Differences in the Economic Decisions of Men and Women: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  2. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
  3. Andreoni,J. & Vesterlund,L., 1998. "Which is the fair sex? : Gender differences in altruism," Working papers 10, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  4. Polachek, Solomon William, 1981. "Occupational Self-Selection: A Human Capital Approach to Sex Differences in Occupational Structure," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(1), pages 60-69, February.
  5. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2008. "Sex and Risk: Experimental Evidence," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-09, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  6. Miguel A. Costa-Gomes & Georg Weizs�cker, 2008. "Stated Beliefs and Play in Normal-Form Games," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(3), pages 729-762.
  7. Miguel A. Costa-Gomes & Georg Weizsäcker, 2004. "Stated Beliefs and Play in Normal Form Games," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000236, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2002. "Sex Differences and Statistical Stereotyping in Attitudes Toward Financial Risk," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-03, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  9. Marianne Bertrand & Kevin F. Hallock, 2001. "The Gender gap in top corporate jobs," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(1), pages 3-21, October.
  10. Altonji, Joseph G. & Blank, Rebecca M., 1999. "Race and gender in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 48, pages 3143-3259 Elsevier.
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