Competitive high ranking positions are largely occupied by men, and women remain scarce in engineering and sciences. Explanations for these occupational differences focus on discrimination and preferences for work hours and field of study. We explore an additional explanation, namely that women and men may differ in their selection into competitive environments. Men and women in a laboratory experiment perform a real task under a non-competitive piece rate and a competitive tournament scheme. Although there are no gender differences in performance under either of these compensations, there is a substantial gender difference when participants subsequently choose the scheme they want to apply to their next performance. Twice as many men as women choose the tournament over the piece rate. This gender gap in tournament entry is neither explained by performance before nor after the entry decision. Furthermore, while men are more optimistic about their relative performance, differences in beliefs only explain a small share of the gap in tournament entry. In a final task, we find that women are less likely to select tournament compensations even when they select it for past performance. In predicting tournament entry we use the compensation choice for past performance as a control for non-tournament specific gender differences (such as risk aversion, general feedback aversion and overconfidence), and we find a large residual gender effect.
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Do Men Compete Too Much?” Quarterly Journal of Economics