Laurie Penny: Was hat sich verändert, dass Jungs und Männer meinen sich so verhalten zu dürfen?

Frauen geben nach verlorenen Wettbewerben im Schnitt eher auf als Männer

Eine interessante Studie befasst sich damit, wie Männer und Frauen auf Wettbewerb reagieren:

We use lab experiments and field data from the Dutch Math Olympiad to show that women are more likely than men to stop competing if they lose. In a math competition in the lab, women are much less likely than men to choose competition again after losing in the first round. In the Math Olympiad, girls, but not boys, who fail to make the second round are less likely to compete again one year later. This gender difference in the reaction to competition outcomes may help to explain why fewer women make it to the top in business and academia.

Quelle: Do Women Give Up Competing More Easily? Evidence from the Lab and the Dutch Math Olympiad

Aus einer Besprechung der Studie: 

Why are women underrepresented at the top of both academia and the corporate world? They represent only 25 per cent of professors in the UK and 5 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs. Behavioural economists have recently offered various new explanations for the gender gap in education and labour market outcomes. Choices made in controlled experimental settings hint at differences in preferences, beliefs and stereotypes.

We highlight one such behavioural mechanism: “competitiveness”, the willingness to enter into contests with others. This personality trait has been shown to be a predictor of career choices and income. Experiments have consistently shown that women are more likely to shy away from competitions. Our experiments suggest that women are also less likely to try again after losing in competitions. Data from the Dutch Math Olympiad indicate that these results also hold outside the lab.

Frauen meiden Wettbewerb eher und nach dieser Studie geben sie auch eher auf, wenn sie verloren haben.

Results from lab experiments

Economists measure willingness to compete in the lab by offering individuals a choice between different rewards for their performance in a task. The choice is between a reward based solely on one’s own performance and potentially receiving a higher reward if one outperforms another participant (and nothing otherwise). When faced with this choice, women tend to choose the safer, non-competitive option. Although this effect has been observed in various settings and for diverse groups of subjects, previous studies have focused on one-shot games. We argue that in most real life settings, there are repeated opportunities to compete with others (think of chances for promotions and research funding). It is therefore important to understand how people respond to failure.

In our experiment students were asked to solve simple arithmetic problems. They also had to choose between either a fixed payment for each correct answer, or twice the payment if they managed to outperform a random “opponent” (and nothing otherwise). How did the choice for competition change over multiple rounds? Unsurprisingly, subjects who opted for the competitive incentive scheme and won almost all continued regardless of gender. A gender gap was found for those who opted for competition in the first round and lost: whereas male losers were 24 percentage points less likely to re-enter competition over the following rounds, this effect was more than twice as large for women, at 59 percentage points.

Also wenn Männer in der ersten Runde verloren haben, dann ware es  25% weniger wahrscheinlich, dass sie in der nächsten Runde noch mal antreten, bei Frauen hingegen, die verloren hatten war es 59% weniger wahrscheinlich, dass sie noch einmal antraten.

Interestingly, this gender difference in the reaction to losing was even more pronounced for top performers. High-performing men were hardly affected by a loss in the first round while high-performing women were 56 percentage points less likely to compete again following a loss.

Was auch interessant ist. Gerade bei den Topperformern zeigt sich ein größerer Geschlechterunterschied. Bei den Top-Männern wirkte sich ein Verlieren fast gar nicht aus, bei den Top-Frauen sank es hingegen nur minimal gegenüber den Nicht-Top-Frauen. Das könnte bei Spitzenjobs, wenn dort der gleiche Trend vorliegt, natürlich schon zu einer erheblichen Ansammlung von Männern bei den „letzten Prüfungen“ führen. Der Gedanke wäre, dass bei jeder Enttäuschung auf der „Karriereleiter“ weitaus mehr Frauen aufgeben als Männer, so dass selbst dann, wenn Anfangs gleich viel Männer und Frauen vorhanden sind, am Ende das Feld stark durch Männer dominiert wäre.

In the analysis above we controlled for the absolute skill level of each subject, which means that any effect is solely driven by different reactions to losing. Being unlucky (i.e. matched to a very strong opponent in the first round) affected men to a much smaller degree. Not only are women less attracted to competing with others in the first place, even those who initially were willing to throw their hat in the ring seem less likely to persevere after a setback. Our results are striking because high performers who are (initially) willing to compete are exactly those whom we would expect to have the potential to reach the top of their careers. Our experiment indicates that high-potential women might be losing out the most by giving up too early.

Vielleicht auch, weil für sie der Karriereaufstieg letztendlich auch weniger interessant ist als für Männer. Denn für diese ist ein Statusgewinn im Beruf üblicherweise zum einen in der intrasexuellen Konkurrenz mehr wert, zum anderen führt es auch zu einer Steigerung in der Partnerbewertung für viele, sprich sie werden für Frauen interessanter.

Evidence from the Dutch Math Olympiad

To evaluate whether our results from the lab also carry over to the real world, we analysed data from the Dutch Math Olympiad. Thousands of high school students participate in this prestigious scholastic contest every year. The Olympiad consists of three successive tests, where only the top performers advance to the next round. We were interested in whether passing the first round affects the probability of re-entering in the following year.

This setting allows us to find the causal effect of passing the initial round, because only students with more than a specific threshold score, the “winners”, were invited to enter the second round. Intuitively, students who scored just below and just above the threshold are very similar in all regards except that some just reached the second round while others did not. They can be compared with each other to find out if losing has any influence.

We find that girls who just lost out were 10-20 percentage points less likely to return in the following year compared to girls who had just made it to the second round. On the other hand, boys who were unsuccessful in advancing were not deterred to participate again relative to those who had just succeeded. Thus the gender difference in perseverance after a competitive loss seems to also affect school-related choices by students, with potentially long-lasting impact.

Also auch ein Effekt, welcher in der „realen Welt“ Auswirkungen hat. Auch dort lassen sich die Frauen eher von Mißerfolgen abschrecken und geben dann auf.

Final thoughts

Failure at some point is arguably an inevitable part of a long, successful career. In some careers, including academia or the arts, failure is arguably more common than success even for successful individuals (think about the extremely low acceptance rates at top scientific journals or for research grants). Our results suggest that bad luck early on could be especially costly for women who aim to pursue such careers. One possible way to encourage workplace diversity at the top would be to soften the focus on competition. For example, achievements could be evaluated on absolute levels rather than framed as contests with winners and losers. This means replacing incentive schemes that reward employees for outcompeting their direct colleagues with schemes that recognise absolute performance or with competition between teams rather than individuals. This could prevent discouraging employees and create a more collaborative environment that attracts and retains a more diverse set of talent without compromising on performance.

In der Tat kann sich schon Pech verheerend auswirken, wenn Männer leichter wieder aufstehen und Frauen eher aufgeben.
Zu der Idee solche Jobs weniger als Wettbewerb auszugestalten: Ich denke man kann aus allem einen Wettbewerb machen und man kann nach jeder anderen Bewertung „verlieren“. Insofern wird das wenig bringen, wenn es letztendlich ein Vorgang ist, bei dem mehrere Leute eine Position wollen.