‘She didn’t ask for it’: is this why women don’t get the top job?

by admin on July 13th, 2018

filed under 南京夜网

Studies show women display less competitive traits than men in mixed-sex environments, but compete as aggressively in female-only scenarios.This year is shaping up as an exciting one for econo-girl nerds, like me.
Nanjing Night Net

Ladies could soon comprise the troika of political and economic power that controls the world’s largest economy.

The silver-haired and softly spoken economist, Janet Yellen, already occupies the top seat at the world’s most powerful economic institution, the US Federal Reserve, which influences borrowing rates across the globe.

Hillary Clinton, assuming she defeats the orange-faced, racist and sexist buffoon, will become the first woman to hold the nuclear codes.

Clinton is tipped to pick a woman, Lael Brainard, to head the US Treasury department. Sporting shoulder-length blonde locks, Brainard already sits beside Yellen on the Fed board and was undersecretary of the Treasury department from 2010 to 2013.

Who runs the world? Girls.

This tantalising prospect aside, progress towards gender equality in the world’s workplaces remains frustratingly slow.

Women make up 46 per cent of the Australian workforce, but occupy just 23 per cent of boards seats and 15 per cent of CEO offices. Malcolm Turnbull’s new-look cabinet is still one member short of an all-female netball team, with just six women out of 23.

Much has been written about the structural barriers that keep women out of top jobs: outright sexism, discrimination and the hurdles women face in often being the primary care giver to children.

But a relatively new field of research has emerged which turns the mirror on women themselves. Is there something lacking in women’s behaviour which explains why they haven’t reached the top?

Austrian economist, Mario Lackner, has reviewed the evidence for the latest issue of the IZA World of Labor journal in an excellent article Gender differences in competitiveness: To what extent can different attitudes towards competition for men and women explain the gender gap in labor markets?

Of course, in other realms, we find it deeply unacceptable to blame women for their mistreatment because of the way they behave. No one, after all, believes it’s acceptable to blame a victim of abuse because “she asked for it”.

So, it is fair to blame women for their lower pay, status and representation in the workforce because “she didn’t ask for it”?

Perhaps, but studies of how men and women act in competitive scenarios has unearthed some uncomfortable truths.

In laboratory-based experiments, women do display less competitive behavioural traits than men. They are less likely to enter tournaments, for example.

That’s significant, because getting pay rises, or securing promotions, often occurs in a competitive situation against other colleagues.

And women are, observably, less likely to ask for a pay rise or put themselves forward for promotion.

But context is key.

In the matrilineal society of the Khasi tribe in India, a 2008 study by researchers found women displayed more competitive behaviour than the men. But in the patriarchal Maasai tribe in Tanzania, men were found to be more competitive, as in the Western world.

In a study of British school kids, economist Alison Booth found girls displayed just as competitive traits as boys when in all-female environments.

“This suggests that observed gender differences in competitive behaviour, and in behaviour under uncertainty, found in previous experimental studies might reflect social learning rather than inherent gender traits alone,” Booth concluded.

So, if we want women to step up, we need to teach them to be more competitive and assertive.

Or do we?

Could it be that boys are the problem? Rather than teaching girls to be more competitive, should we be teaching boys to be less competitive?

Yes, according to new research summarised by Lackner.

Just as women tend to suffer from under-confidence, men are more likely to suffer overconfidence.

Studies of stockbrokers show men are higher frequency traders: more susceptible to getting a hunch, and acting on it, than sticking with a particular investment mix over the long term.

Men suffer lower portfolio returns than female traders as a result, according to a 2001 study, Boys will be boys: Gender, overconfidence, and common stock investment.

Similarly, a 2013 study of male and female executives in corporate finance found men were more likely to display overconfidence. Male executives were more likely to undertake more acquisitions and take on more debt than female executives. “The higher number of acquisitions by male executives yields lower announced returns than those made by their female counterparts,” Lackner summarises.

Indeed, a study by economists Catherine Eckel and Sascha Fullbrunn last year found price bubbles were more likely to form in assets heavily traded by men. Assets traded more heavily by female traders were more likely to deliver returns in excess of current market pricing.

So, if our objective is purely to boost gender equality in our workplaces, we should look at ways to foster greater competitiveness in females, like all-girl school classes and workplace mentoring.

But if the goal is not only gender equality, but more stable and highly performing companies and economies, we need to also train our men to be a little less confident in their abilities.

Perhaps if we had Yellen, Clinton and Brainard at the helm in the mid-2000s, not Greenspan, Bush and Paulson, the world might not have suffered the widespread destruction of wealth and livelihoods that the GFC wrought.

Instead of training our girls to be boys, it’s time we gave our boys a greater sense of their own limitations.

Ross Gittins is on assignment.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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