Women are more competitive than we think – just not against men

26 Sep

Women are just as competitive as men – they just don’t like to compete against them. That’s the finding of new research from Harvard Business School that examines why women are paid less and fill so few top positions.

The study reveals that women don’t innately prefer cooperation to competition, which is often the stereotypical view of women; they just feel pressure not to compete against men.

Controlled experiments examined how men and women respond when they compete in maths and verbal tasks. Both men and women performed better when they were paired with someone from their own gender (except in the verbal task, where the men’s performance wasn’t affected).

Professor Kathleen L McGinn said: “There’s a strongly held assumption that men are competitive and women aren’t, and our results show otherwise. Men and women work together differently when they’re dependent [on each other] versus independent and when they work on stereotypically male or female tasks.”

The researchers will be publishing the full findings in their forthcoming paper The Untold Story of Gender and Incentives, and believe  that their study could be revealing to companies in how they put together their pay schemes, and how they group people in teams to complete tasks.

 

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