Women and Competition

Experimental studies of discrimination of women in their career

Despite steady progress, women are nowadays still disadvantaged in their career in many respects. To name but a few, women are still underrepresented in top positions (such as at the management of a firm) or earn on average less than men, even when having the same qualifications.

The literature discusses several reasons for this divergence including problems to combine career and family, diverse preferences, or plain discrimination of women. Recent findings in economics highlight another important factor: the tendency of women to shy away from competition. It has been shown that even women of the same skills as their male counterparts enjoy the exposure to competitive environments significantly much less than men. This is reflected in the finding that men seek competition in many situations, while women try to avoid it. This discrepancy explains a big part of the fact that women are disadvantaged in their career.

Hitherto, research on preferences for competition of men and women concentrate exclusively on studies with adults and don’t address the important issue of how this difference should be handled and how this problem could be tackled in order to achieve a well-balanced gender ratio in competitive environments.

This research project aims to study the preferences for competition of young children and adolescents on the basis of economic experiments.
There are three main research questions

  1. How do preferences for competition develop with age?
  2. What are the causes of gender differences in the preferences for competition and how (with which actions) can we achieve a well-balanced gender ratio in competitive environments?
  3. How do the actions to be developed in step 2 influence the behaviour of men and women in competitive situations?

The project will be carried out in collaboration with the Gymnasium Reithmannstraße Innsbruck and the BRG/BORG Schwaz and 20 young researchers from each school.
The young researchers will be involved in

  • Planning, preparing, conducting, and analysing economic experiments to study gender differences in competition
  • Designing and implementing a questionnaire on the attitude of men and women towards competition and developing actions on how to encourage women to take part in competition
  • Writing a working paper on the results of the project and presenting it at a research seminar and an international conference at the University of Innsbruck.

The young researchers can take advantage of this collaboration, acquire hands-on experience in a research project and therefore attain knowledge in a field of research that has implications for their future business life.

This project has been completed.