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Evidence on Self-Stereotyping and the Contribution of Ideas

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  • Katherine Baldiga Coffman

Abstract

We use a lab experiment to explore the factors that predict an individual’s decision to contribute her idea to a group. We find that contribution decisions depend on the interaction of gender and the gender stereotype associated with the decision-making domain: conditional on measured ability, individuals are less willing to contribute ideas in areas that are stereotypically outside of their gender’s domain. Importantly, these decisions are largely driven by self-assessments, rather than fear of discrimination. Individuals are less confident in gender-incongruent areas and are thus less willing to contribute their ideas. Because even very knowledgeable group members undercontribute in gender-incongruent categories, group performance suffers and, ex post, groups have difficulty recognizing who their most talented members are. Our results show that even in an environment where other group members show no bias, women in male-typed areas and men in female-typed areas may be less influential. An intervention that provides feedback about a woman’s (man’s) strength in a male-typed (female-typed) area does not significantly increase the probability that she contributes her ideas to the group. A back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals that a “lean in”–style policy that increases contribution by women would significantly improve group performance in male-typed domains. JEL Codes: J16, C92.

Suggested Citation

  • Katherine Baldiga Coffman, 2014. "Evidence on Self-Stereotyping and the Contribution of Ideas," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(4), pages 1625-1660.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:129:y:2014:i:4:p:1625-1660
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/qju023
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior

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