Competing jobs

Competitive high-ranking positions are largely occupied by men, and women are much less common in engineering and scientific jobs.

by National Bureau of EconomicResearch Digest
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Traditional explanations focus on discrimination (or being deterred from such jobs for fear of discrimination), being put off by long working hours that conflict with the ability to raise children, and educational choices. But this study, based on an experiment involving 80 men and women being rewarded for tasks, suggests that women are also more likely to dislike and therefore avoid competition, even if they are of the same ability as men.

This may make them less successful in obtaining promotions and more lucrative jobs. In this experiment, men showed they were likely to make higher risk, higher reward choices, regardless of underlying ability. Men were also found to be more confident about their abilities than women, and it is suggested that women generally make more risk-averse choices and may shy away from competition because they dislike feedback about their relative performance.

Do women shy away from competition?
Muriel Niederle and Lise Vesterlund, National Bureau of Economic
Research Digest, February 2006.

Reviewed by Steve Lodge.

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