Seminar  |  07/18/2019 | 12:00 PM  –  01:30 PM

Brown Bag Seminar: Leaning in or Not Leaning Out? Opt-out Choice Framing Attenuates Gender Differences in the Decision to Compete

Nicola Lacetera (University of Toronto)

Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, Munich, Room 313

In most organizations, promotions often requires self-nomination and entry into competition. However, research on gender differences in self-promotion and preference for competition suggests that this “opt-in” process might result in fewer women choosing to compete. We study whether changing promotion schemes from a default where applicants must opt in (i.e., self-nominate) to a default where applicants must opt out (i.e., those who pass a qualification threshold are automatically considered for promotion, but can choose not to be considered) will attenuate gender differences. In our first experiment, although women are less likely than men to choose competitive environments under the traditional opt-in framing, there is no gender difference when the choice to compete is described using opt-out framing. The increase in participation of women into competition is not associated with negative consequences for performance or well-being. Further, in our second experiment we show that opt-out framing does not entail penalties from evaluators making decisions about whom to hire. These results suggest that organizations could make use of “opt-out” promotion schemes as a behavioral intervention to reduce the gender gap in promotion rates and ascension to leadership positions. More generally, our study provides additional support to the promise of choice architecture to reduce disparities in organizations.

Contact person: Dr. Marina Chugunova