Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gender and Competition: What Companies Need to Know

New research findings by HKS Academic Dean and WAPPP Director, Iris Bohnet and collaborators Kathleen McGinn and Pinar Fletcher, described in HBS's Working Knowledge, Gender and Competition: What Companies Need to Know. Read an excerpt below.
Pressure to not compete against men, rather than an innate preference for cooperation over competition, may keep women from earning what they're worth in the workplace, according to preliminary findings by three Harvard researchers.

In their forthcoming paper, The Untold Story of Gender and Incentives, Harvard Professors Kathleen L. McGinn and Iris Bohnet, along with HBS doctoral student Pinar Fletcher, examine how men and women respond when they cooperate or compete in pairs on math and verbal tasks.

What they unearthed in their early research is that how women and men perform at work may be strongly linked to the gender of the person they are competing against.
"Women are competitive, but not in particular work environments or groups," says McGinn, the Cahners-Rabb Professor and chair of the Doctoral Programs at Harvard Business School.
She and Bohnet, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School who serves as director of its Women and Public Policy Program, have extensively studied gender gaps and inequality in the workplace. Their research addresses questions about why women are paid less, have trouble being promoted in certain work environments, and hold a tiny percentage of top corporate management positions. According to a 2010 report from research firm Catalyst, among Fortune 500 companies, only 2.6 percent of CEOs are women, 13.5 percent of executive officers are women, and 15.2 percent of board members are women.
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