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Do Women shy away from Competition?


  • Lise Vesterlund
  • Muriel Niederle


Despite sustained efforts of equal opportunities for men and women, large gender differences prevail in competitive high ranking positions. Possible explanations include discrimination, differences in human capital and preferences, which overall may make women less effective in competitive environments. In this paper we explore whether men and women have different preferences concerning self selection into competitive environments. In a laboratory experiment, we observe that women select less into a competitive environment than men, even for a task in which men and women perform equally under a competitive scheme and a piece rate. This effect is stronger when women have to compete against men than in single-sex environments: this suggests that highly qualified women do select into highly competitive environments, just less so when they have to compete against men.

Suggested Citation

  • Lise Vesterlund & Muriel Niederle, 2004. "Do Women shy away from Competition?," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 652, Econometric Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:nasm04:652

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    13. Alexey Malakhov & Rakesh V. Vohra, 2004. "Single and Multi-Dimensional Optimal Auctions - A Network Approach," Discussion Papers 1397, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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    17. repec:dau:papers:123456789/5454 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. repec:dau:papers:123456789/5451 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Tor Eriksson & Sabrina Teyssier & Marie Claire Villeval, 2006. "Effort Self-Selection and the Efficiency of Tournaments," Post-Print halshs-00142876, HAL.
    2. Tor Eriksson & Sabrina Teyssier & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2009. "Self-Selection And The Efficiency Of Tournaments," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(3), pages 530-548, July.
    3. Radosveta Ivanova-Stenzel & Dorothea Kübler, 2005. "Courtesy and Idleness: Gender Differences in Team Work and Team Competition," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2005-049, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
    4. Marie-Claire Villeval & Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior - Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 0512, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    5. Ham, John C. & Kagel, John H., 2006. "Gender effects in private value auctions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 92(3), pages 375-382, September.
    6. Olaf Hübler & Lukas Menkhoff, 2011. "Do Women Manage Smaller Funds?," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 58(1), pages 107-126, February.
    7. Andrea Weber & Christine Zulehner, 2014. "Competition And Gender Prejudice: Are Discriminatory Employers Doomed To Fail?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 492-521, April.
    8. Alan Manning & Farzad Saidi, 2010. "Understanding the Gender Pay Gap: What's Competition Got to Do with it?," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 63(4), pages 681-698, July.
    9. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen & Marie Claire Villeval, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior: Experimental," Post-Print halshs-00175039, HAL.
    10. Daniela Beckmann & Lukas Menkhoff, 2008. "Will Women Be Women? Analyzing the Gender Difference among Financial Experts," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 364-384, August.

    More about this item


    Experiments; discrimination;

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments


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