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Women are more competitive when they’re given an option to share winnings – a research finding that may help close the gender pay gap

Mary L. Rigdon, professor and Associate Director at the University of Arizona shares research about women’s competitiveness that may help close the gender pay gap. The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

Women are more likely to take risks and engage in competitive activities if they’re allowed to share their potential winnings with peers, according to new research I co-authored. Since one explanation of the gender pay gap is that women tend to be less competitive than men in workplace settings, this finding could lead to ways to narrow it.

In a study published on Nov. 1, 2021, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Alessandra Cassar and I report an experiment in which we invited 238 undergraduate students – split almost evenly between men and women – into our labs to solve a simple numbers puzzle. We wanted to see how different types of financial incentives prompt men and women to compete differently. We randomly assigned them to groups of four and had them do versions of the puzzle over three rounds.

Researchers have conducted this experiment many times, with the result that women show less interest in competing than men. But we added a twist.

Half the students followed the usual methodology. They were first told they’d receive US$2 for every numbers problem solved. In the second round, we offered $4 per solution to the top two performers in each foursome, leaving the others with nothing. In the final round, participants were able to choose whether to receive $2 for every problem solved or engage in the more competitive game and potentially earn more money.

Mirroring the results of past studies, our research found that while 52% of the men chose the competitive option in the third round, only 34% of women did.

Our twist on this experiment, which we conducted with the other half, was very similar to how the standard version was conducted except in one way. In the second round, students who won were told they could choose to share some portion of their winnings with one of the two low performers in their group. We then looked at how this option to share affected their choices in round three.

We found that this eliminated the male-female competitiveness gap. Men chose to compete at about the same rate as before, but 60% of women opted for the riskier option when offered a chance to share their winnings.

women in the workplace

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov from Pexels

Why it matters

The latest wage data shows women earn 83 cents of every dollar a man is paid, a stat that has barely budged in decades. And while controlling for job type and individual characteristics closes much of the gap, we think this adjustment misses the point.

The persistent gap in average earnings suggests women consistently go into careers that pay lower salaries than those that men go into or are systemically underpromoted. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this imbalance.

To more meaningfully close or at least narrow the gap between how much men and women earn, it’s important to understand its causes. Some economists have suggested it’s at least partly due to different levels of competitiveness among men and women.

After all, high-risk competitive roles like managers and lawyers tend to come with lofty salaries. Since many of the studies cited above show women seem to be less competitive than men, this could help explain why women are underrepresented in those careers and on average earn less.

Our research suggests the explanation may be more nuanced. It’s not that women don’t like competition, but that they are sensitive to social aspects of it that men aren’t. When incentives reflect those social aspects, women are just as competitive as men.

What’s next

We’re not sure how our findings translate into the workplace or how companies can adjust the way they pay workers to encourage women to be more competitive. We are uncovering more of the what, and need to better understand the why.

You might be interested: The immortal – and false – myth of the workplace Queen Bee


[Over 110,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The immortal – and false – myth of the workplace Queen Bee

Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, Professor of Strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School and Sarah Kaplan, Professor of Strategic Management at University of Toronto share their findings on the unfair biases women leaders face and the myth of “Queen Bees” in the workplace.


Cat fights, mean girls, Queen Bees.

We’ve all heard these terms stemming from a popular belief that women don’t help other women, or indeed actively undermine them.

Women leaders are often portrayed in popular culture as suffering from Queen Bee Syndrome (think Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada). The media is filled with advice about “what to do if you work for a Queen Bee.”

But what if the Queen Bee isn’t real? Or at least she’s sorely misunderstood?

Gendered differences in expectations make us see Queen Bees when they aren’t really there.

Looking across a wide range of studies, there is no evidence that senior women are less helpful (or more harmful) to junior women than senior men are to junior men. Studies find little evidence that women are more competitive towards other women than men are towards other men. And women and men do not differ in their use of aggression. Indeed, having a female manager is, with few exceptions, either positive or neutral on women’s rates of promotions and wages.

The Queen Bee myth has more to do with how companies are structured than it does with women actually undermining one another at work. (Photo created by freepik)

Women expected to be helpful, warm

So why do people believe that Queen Bees are so prevalent? The answer has to do with our expectations of leaders. Because women are expected to be helpful and warm, people perceive women who take on leadership roles more negatively. So even if women leaders aren’t behaving any differently than men, they will be seen as unsupportive because of the double standards women face.

Demanding male managers are seen as strong leaders, while women don’t get the same credit. And when conflicts arise at work, as they often do, clashes between two women are seen as much more problematic by others in the organization than those between men.

It’s assumed that women should align themselves with other women no matter what. As former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright said: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

In corporations, we expect senior women to take on responsibilities for championing other women in management, heading up women’s leadership committees and, in general, doing the organization’s heavy lifting when it comes to increasing diversity.

This is, however, a lot of extra (and undervalued) work that is not expected of their male peers. If a woman chooses not to take on these roles, she may be labelled a Queen Bee, while men who don’t do diversity work are not.

Marginalization is the culprit

If women do behave like Queen Bees sometimes, why is that?

Sometimes we observe that women don’t advocate for other women in their organizations. Experimental evidence shows that this is not about being a prima donna, but instead a product of what scholars call “value threat.”

Value threats occur when there are negative stereotypes of women in highly masculinized workplaces. Women who do manage to “make it” must constantly fight these negative stereotypes in order to hold onto their own positions in the organization. Their concern about whether they are valued at work may shape their willingness to assist other women. Women might not support other women if there is any question about these women’s qualifications, because they don’t want to do anything that might fuel the negative stereotypes.

women in the workplace

Women may be more willing to help other women if they have confidence in their qualifications and skills, particularly in a highly masculinized workplace. (Photo by Alexander Suhorucov from Pexels)

In this context, there are often few opportunities open to women — “implicit quotas” that limit chances for leadership roles. One study of 1,500 firms showed that once a company appointed a woman to a top leadership role, the chance that a second woman would join the leadership ranks dropped by 50 per cent.

Another study of corporate boards showed companies seemed to be gaming the system: appointing two — but no more than two — women to their boards, a phenomenon the researchers called “twokenism.”

As a result, women may not support other highly qualified women because they know they’ll be competing for the same small number of opportunities. Our conclusion: being a Queen Bee is not an intrinsically female behaviour but instead a reaction to marginalization.

Again, it’s the context that matters. In studies of networks inside organizations, women were more likely than men to cite a woman as a source of difficult work relationships, but this propensity was lower for women with more women in their social support network. Similarly, an experiment with women police officers found that women who identified closely with their gender actually responded to gender bias with increased motivation to help other women, while those who were less gender-identified were more likely to exhibit Queen Bee responses.

Women may be seen as Queen Bees when in fact the organizational context is the origin of the behaviour. When organizations are not inclusive, women are more likely to experience value threat and therefore more likely to avoid supporting other women.

You might be interested: Gender washing: seven kinds of marketing hypocrisy about empowering women

No male equivalent to Queen Bee

Beyond the evidence against the Queen Bee myth, the mere existence of the term is part of the problem. If men are as likely to be competitive with other men as women are with other women, then gendered terms such as Queen Bee are sexist.

In this regard, language matters. Calling women Queen Bees is its own form of devaluation, with its impact on the denigration and marginalization of women in leadership.

At a time when corporations are struggling to address gender gaps at all levels, killing off stereotyped myths such as the Queen Bee Syndrome is essential.

The Queen Bee is dead! Long live women leaders!The Conversation


Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, Adecco Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, London Business School and Sarah Kaplan, Professor, Strategic Management, Rotman School of Management; Director, Institute for Gender and the Economy, University of Toronto

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

benefits of women in companies

7 Benefits of having women in companies

Did you know, companies that decide to employ women are able to increase their productivity, adapt better to changes and have a more stable workforce?

According to UN Women, companies where three or more women hold senior executive roles benefit from higher performance in organizational effectiveness.

The participation of women in the workforce decreased from 51% in 2000 to 48% in 2019, globally; and in all countries, they face wage gaps, according to World Bank data. In addition, although women represent 40% of the global workforce, and many of them manage to have their own businesses, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 48% of their productive potential is not used, compared to the 22% of men.

Against this background, James Hernández, president and co-founder of Trust Corporate, and a consultant on financial, legal, and organizational issues, states: “It is time to advance in favor of gender equality, where both men and women are guaranteed equal access to work, with emphasis on recognizing women as agents of growth and sustainability in organizations.” 

The consultant mentions below some of the top benefits of having women in companies. 

7 benefits of having women in companies

  1. Increase in creativity and productivity: Having diverse work groups in which men and women coexist encourages creativity. Women are able to bring together people, group opinions, and proposals, which favors the creation of teams, encourages participation and enhances decision-making.
  2. Cooperativity and responsibility: Women are more skillful when it comes to delegating and organizing tasks. They are more responsible, they are more open to change and they work with a greater orientation to success.
  3. Building trust: Female leaders are perceived in work environments as more honest, understanding and ethical. This aspect is fundamental since leading with honesty affects the success of the entire company, based on the satisfaction of the work team.
  4. Multitasking: Most women can perform more than one task at a time and focus on the goal. This is why companies can train them to perform new functions or entrust them with a new position.
  5. Work environment: Women contribute to conflict resolution thanks to the fact that they are often more empathetic and are more willing to communicate and receive feedback. This helps generate a better work environment in companies.
  6. Higher education than men: Young women of the Millennial generation have a higher level of studies at the time of starting their professional career, which guarantees growth and contribution of knowledge to companies.
  7. Better performance: According to an ILO report, incorporating women into management positions can result in an improvement of up to 20% in business profitability, in addition to accelerating innovation and attracting talented professionals. The study found that of 13,000 businesses, 60% benefited from the work of women in managerial positions in terms of earnings, as well as creativity and reputation.

According to UN Women, studies carried out in OECD countries and in some non-member countries show that increased participation of women in the labor force triggers faster economic growth. However, globally, the gender pay gap is 16%, which means that women earn on average 84% of what men earn.

You might be interested: Recent survey data reveal the effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers

“Although the role of women has been increasing in recent times, much remains to be done to achieve greater participation of women in the workplace. Incorporating women into a company, and promoting leadership positions for them, is a wise decision for organizations since there are many benefits obtained from having female talent in their workforce, for example, greater organizational performance and effectiveness,” concluded James Hernández, president and co-founder of Trust Corporate.

Latina worker

Record job losses in December push women out of the workforce en mass

This time last year, we were living in a pre-COVID-19 world. In this world, for three months, something rare happened in the workforce that had only only occurred one other time in history, nearly a decade ago: women held more jobs than men in the U.S. economy. However, the COVID-19 pandemic quickly changed this narrative, leading to record job losses for women. 

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

Shocking gender gap in December job losses 

New data released last week has revealed that in December employers cut 140,000 jobs. A closer look at the data also reveals a shocking gender gap: Women accounted for all the job losses, losing 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000. Of course many men lost jobs as well in December, but when taken together as a group, they came out ahead while women fell behind. 

Additionally, a separate survey-study of households, which included self-employed workers, showed a wider gender disparity in the workforce while also revealing a significant racial and ethnic disparity: Black and Latina women made up the majority of job losses, while White women made significant gains. 

Racial and ethnic disparity in the workforce 

Black and Latina women disproportionately work in some of the hardest-hit sectors in the pandemic. These positions often lack paid sick leave and the ability to work from home, putting Black and Latina women and families at an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. As schools and daycares closed due to the virus, many women were forced to make the hard choice between work and parenting. In many situations, women chose to leave their careers to take on primary care-giving roles in the home, especially if there was an employed male in the household. 

You might be interested: Mariela Dabbah, the perils of a global pandemic for gender inclusion in the workplace

Overall, women are still down 5.4 million jobs from February, before the pandemic began, as compared to 4.4 million job losses for men. At the start of 2020 men and women were roughly on equal footing, with women holding 50.03% of jobs. However by the end of 2020 the gender disparity in the workforce now shows that women hold 860,000 fewer jobs than their male peers. 

This gap is largely due to increased job losses in three sectors: education — which remains a female-dominated industry — hospitality, and retail. All of these industries have been greatly affected by the pandemic.

In December, restaurants and bars cut the most jobs by far, and part-time workers were hit especially hard. 

Among women, Latinas currently have the highest unemployment rate at 9.1%, followed by Black women at 8.4%. White women have the lowest unemployment rate at 5.7%.

As we continue into 2021, we must work toward recuperating these losses for women in the workforce and create better opportunities.