Are Women Less Competitive than Men? Explaining the Gender Gap

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Over at Curious Capitalist, our colleague Steve Gandel explores an intriguing explanation for the persistent income gap between the genders: When it comes to competitiveness, women just don’t stack up.

In a new paper titled “Do Competitive Work Places Deter Female Workers?,” researchers led by a University of Chicago economics professor posit that men may be significantly more likely than women to be drawn to jobs that involve competition with coworkers. And since highly competitive industries and jobs tend to pay more, men tend to make more money overall. (More on Don’t Feel Like Calling Dad? You May Be Ovulating)

For their study, the researchers placed help-wanted ads online for two similar office jobs. In all, some 7,000 people responded to the ads. Some of the respondents were told the advertised job would be compensated with a fixed hourly pay; the others were told compensation would involve a base salary plus bonus. In the latter scenario, people were informed that new hires would be placed in pairs and that the person whose work was deemed the best would get the bonus.

Gandel explains:

For both jobs, when the element of the bonus was added, males were far more likely to actually send in their application than females. Or worded the other way around, females were more likely to pass on the job once they found out part of their pay would be based on their performance versus a co-worker.

In fact, in the most competitive salary structure, where the base pay was $12 an hour and the bonus $6, the study found that men were 55.5% more likely to apply for the job than women. The conclusion, Gandel writes: Women don’t like competition. (More on The Lab Rat: Can a Simple Writing Exercise Close the Gender Gap?)

It’s an illuminating report, which you can read more about on Curious Capitalist.

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