Laboratory studies have documented that women often respond less favorably to competition than men. Conditional on performance, men are often more eager to compete, and the performance of men tends to respond more positively to an increase in competition. This means that few women enter and win competitions. We review studies that examine the robustness of these differences as well the factors that may give rise to them. Both laboratory and field studies largely confirm these initial findings, showing that gender differences in competitiveness tend to result from differences in overconfidence and in attitudes toward competition. Gender differences in risk aversion, however, seem to play a smaller and less robust role. We conclude by asking what could and should be done to encourage qualified males and females to compete.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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