Girls shy away from competing even if they know they are going to win.
A new study has found that there is a gender gap between the sexes when it comes to competition with boys much more likely to want to compete with others than girls. As early as four years of age boys are more competitive than girls and remain so into adulthood, according to new a study. That could explain why men earn more than women.
Girls, who are often better than their male counterparts, tend to shy away from competing even if they know they are going to win.
These were the key results of a large-scale experiment with more than 1,000 children and teenagers aged between three and 18.
The study, by Professor Matthias Sutter and Daniela Rützler, at Iza research institute in Germany, involved two experiments.
The younger children (aged three to eight) took part in a 30m sprint, while older children (aged nine to 18) faced an easy maths challenge, adding up two-digit numbers.
In both experiments, the children had to choose whether to perform the task individually or in competition with others.
Although the girls’ maths performance was just good as the boys’, girls expected to do much worse: while roughly two in five boys chose the tournament, only one in five girls did so.
Results were similar in the sprint, with girls significantly less likely to want to compete despite having a similar chance of winning.
These results might provide one reason why men consistently earn more than women in the workplace.
The authors said: “To be successful in getting more attractive and better paid jobs in the modern economy, it is important to face up to the challenge of competition instead of shying away from it.”
The study was presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2011 annual conference.