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Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete too Much?

  • Muriel Niederle

    (Department of Economics, Stanford University)

  • Lise Vesterlund

    (Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh)

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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Paper provided by Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research in its series Discussion Papers with number 04-030.

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Date of creation: Jun 2005
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Handle: RePEc:sip:dpaper:04-030
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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. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Blau, Francine D. & Kahn, Lawrence M., 2006. "The U.S. Gender Pay Gap in the 1990s: Slowing Convergence," IZA Discussion Papers 2176, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. James Andreoni & Lise Vesterlund, 2001. "Which Is The Fair Sex? Gender Differences In Altruism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 293-312, February.
  7. Joseph G. Altonji & Rebecca M. Blank, . "Race and Gender in the Labor Market," IPR working papers 98-18, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
  8. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Men, Women and Risk Aversion: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  9. 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.
  10. Miguel A. Costa-Gomes & Georg Weizsäcker, 2004. "Stated Beliefs and Play in Normal-Form Games," ISER Discussion Paper 0614, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  11. 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.
  12. Marianne Bertrand & Kevin F. Hallock, 2001. "The Gender Gap in Top Corporate Jobs," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(1), pages 3-21, October.
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