Prior research, primarily based on lab experiments, suggests that females might be more averse to competition than males and could be more inclined towards collaboration, instead. Were these findings to generalize to adults across the workforce, there could be profound implications for organizational theory and practice. This paper reports on a field experiment in which adults from a wide range of fields and ages were invited to join a product development opportunity. Individuals were randomly assigned to treatments framing the opportunity as either involving competitive or collaborative interactions with other participants. Among those outside of science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM), we find significant gender differences in willingness to participate under competition. Among those in STEM fields, we detect no statistical gender differences. These results and broader patterns documented in the study are consistent with significant heterogeneity in competitiveness across both men and women, with field and career sorting resulting in differences (in gender differences) across fields.
Contact: Rainer Widmann