Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?

We examine whether men and women of the same ability differ in their selection into a competitive environment. Participants in a laboratory experiment solve a real task, first under a noncompetitive piece rate and then a competitive tournament incentive scheme. Although there are no gender differences in performance, men select the tournament twice as much as women when choosing their compensation scheme for the next performance. While 73% of the men select the tournament, only 35% of the women make this choice. This gender gap in tournament entry is not explained by performance, and factors such as risk and feedback aversion only play a negligible role. Instead, the tournament-entry gap is driven by men being more overconfident and by gender differences in preferences for performing in a competition. The result is that women shy away from competition and men embrace it. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Policy implications 
In this instance, competition performance compensation schemes do not increase performance above standard piece-rate compensation schemes.
Niederle, M., & Vesterlund, L., 2007. 'Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?'. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, 122(3), pages 1067-1101.