Gender and Willingness to Compete for High Stakes
40 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2020 Last revised: 22 Nov 2021
Date Written: November 19, 2021
We examine gender differences in willingness to compete, using a setting with exceptionally high stakes. Our data are from a long-running television game show where in every episode the winner of an elimination competition plays a game of chance worth hundreds of thousands of euros. At several stages of this competition, contestants face a choice between continuing to compete and opting out in exchange for a comparatively modest prize. When there is no strategic interaction between contestants, we observe the well-known pattern that women are less likely to compete than men, but this difference derives entirely from women avoiding competition against men. When there is strategic interaction and contestants should take the willingness to compete of their opponent into account, women again avoid competing against men. Men then seem to anticipate the lower competitiveness of female opponents, as evidenced by their greater tendency to compete against women. Ability differences are unlikely to explain these results. Our findings show that the gender difference in willingness to compete also occurs in a setting with exceptionally high stakes and underline the importance of the gender of competitors. The results are particularly relevant for understanding and addressing the persistent gender gap at the male-dominated higher rungs of the career ladder.
Keywords: gender differences, competitiveness, willingness to compete, game show
JEL Classification: D91, J16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation