NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Why Men Win

September 3, 2003

One reason why women don't get more top jobs may be that they view work differently to men, say researchers. New research by Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics finds that men are three times as likely as women to regard themselves as "work-centered." Also, research by economists at two American universities suggests that, even in the job market, women behave in ways that disadvantage them.

At the University of Chicago's business school, Uri Gneezy and a group of colleagues have used novel techniques to show that women and men have different attitudes toward competition. In one study groups of students were paid to solve simple maze problems on a computer:

  • In some groups, everybody was paid 50 cents per problem solved; in others, a payment of $3 per problem went only to the individual who solved the most mazes.
  • Female performance was much the same in both groups; but in the second lot, the average man did about 50 percent better than in the first -- indicating that competition is motivational for men.
  • When nine- and ten-year-old children ran a race alone, boys and girls clocked similar speeds.
  • When children raced in pairs, girls' speed hardly altered.
  • But boys ran faster when paired with a boy, and faster still when racing against a girl.

Gneezy points out that, if men try harder when competing, they will disproportionately win the top jobs, even when to do the job well does not require an ability to compete. Job selection is itself highly competitive.

Source: "Be A Man," Economist, June 26, 2003.


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