Submitted by Roxanne Bauer
Willingness to compete in a gender equal society ," the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) in Bergen gathered 523 students from the ninth grade to take part in a research project at NHH's Choice Lab. Fifty boys and girls, around 15 years of age, who were not aware in advance that they were taking part in a study on gender differences, were invited to take the personality test The Big Five Inventory and complete some math exercises in which they could make money.
Just as the Maasai and Khasi, the Norwegian students had to make a strategic choice: play it safe or risk high rewards/losses. In the first round, they made 50 Norwegian kroner if they got as many points as the average. However, in the second round, they could earn one Norwegian krone for every correct answer— this is the safe choice— or three kroner for every right answer if they found a better solution to the exercises than the average. If they didn’t find a better than average solution, they got nothing.
Unlike other geographical regions, there are no gender differences when it comes to the students' belief in their own skills in Norway, but once again there was a stark difference in competitive drive. Among the boys, 51 per cent chose the competitive alternative but only 31 per cent of the girls did the same.
These studies indicate that culture— not biology— is a decisive factor in determining how competitive an individual becomes, and that not all women from all walks of life are less competitively inclined than men.
This distinction has implications for hiring managers, policymakers, business owners, educators and parents alike who want to increase diversity in the workplace, level the playing field for women in politics and management, or improve the gender balance in an array of settings.
There are dramatic gender differences among the top executives
around the world: women currently hold just 20 (4.0%) of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies, and now we can say that this discrepancy is not due to an inherent lack of competitiveness among women, but perhaps a socially constructed lack of it.
While encouraging females to be more competitive- in isolation- is probably not a ticket to greater equality or inclusivity, the idea that competitiveness is learned bears some thought because it reveals that societies are both subtly and overtly teaching females to behave and approach risk in certain ways— and this we have the power to change.Follow PublicSphereWB on Twitter !
Photograph of Maasai tribesmen by Kaizer Rangwala via Flickr
Photograph of Khasi woman by Neelima v via Flickr