Binders full of women

Kevin Lewis

June 16, 2016

Gender and Competitive Preferences: The Role of Competition Size

Kathrin Hanek, Stephen Garcia & Avishalom Tor

Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming

In a series of 8 studies, we examine whether gender differences in competition entry preferences are moderated by the size of the competition. Drawing on theories of gender roles and stereotypes, we show that women, relative to men, prefer to enter smaller compared with larger competitions. Studies 1a and 1b demonstrate this effect in observational data on preferences for working in differently sized firms and applying to differently sized colleges. Studies 2a and 2b replicate the effect with real behavioral decisions in different domains. We also find empirical evidence that prescriptive gender norms and stereotypes underlie this effect. In Study 3, we find experimental evidence that women and men differ in their preferences for differently sized groups under competition, but not in noncompetitive settings. Three additional experimental studies (Studies 4, 5a, and 5b) show that perceptions of comfort in small versus larger competitions underlie women’s preferences. These findings suggest that women’s preferences for smaller competitions may be driven by an adherence to prescriptive gender norms. We discuss the implications of the current findings for gender inequalities in organizations.


Does Gender Raise the Ethical Bar? Exploring the Punishment of Ethical Violations at Work

Jessica Kennedy, Mary-Hunter McDonnell & Nicole Stephens

Vanderbilt University Working Paper, April 2016

We investigate whether women are targets of more severe punishment than men following ethical violations at work. Using an experimental design, Study 1 finds evidence that ethical behavior is more strongly prescribed for women than for men, even when they occupy an identical professional role. Study 2 manipulates the gender of a manager in a hypothetical scenario and finds that women are punished more severely than men for ethical violations at work. It also tests the scope of our theory by asking whether women are punished more for errors in general, or only for intentional ethical violations. Using field data, Study 3 examines how severely attorneys are punished for violating the American Bar Association’s ethical rules. Female attorneys are punished more severely than male attorneys, after accounting for a variety of factors. Greater representation of women among decision-makers diminishes the gender disparity in punishment. Our research documents a new prescriptive stereotype faced by women and helps to explain the persistence of gender disparities in organizations. It highlights punishment severity as a novel mechanism by which institutions may derail women’s careers more than men’s.


Know Your Worth: Angel Financing of Female Entrepreneurial Ventures

Sharon Poczter & Melanie Shapsis

Cornell University Working Paper, May 2016

This study explores success rates in angel financing based on the gender composition of entrepreneurial teams using unique, hand-collected data from the television program Shark Tank. We find that the likelihood of a team receiving an offer from an angel investor is independent of the entrepreneurs’ gender and initial asking valuation. However, consistent with prior work, we find that female teams receive lower company valuations and less capital to finance their new ventures relative to their male counterparts and that this differential valuation depends on industry. We also discover, however, that female teams receive less funding because they initially ask for significantly lower valuations for their companies, ceteris paribus. These results hold when controlling for important entrepreneur and firm characteristics that may strongly impact the angel financing outcome, such as the size of the entrepreneurial team, company age and prior success of the firm.


Gender bias triggers diverging science interests between women and men: The role of activity interest appraisals

Dustin Thoman & Carol Sansone

Motivation and Emotion, June 2016, Pages 464-477

Women leave science fields at greater rates than men, and loss of interest is a key motivator for leaving. Although research widely demonstrates effects of gender bias on other motivational processes, whether gender bias directly affects feelings of interest toward science activities is unknown. We used a false feedback paradigm to manipulate whether women (Study 1) and men (Study 2) participants perceived the reason for feedback as due to pro-male bias. Because activity interest also depends on how students approach and perform the activity, effects of biased feedback on interest appraisals were isolated by introducing gender bias only after the science activity was completed. When the feedback was perceived as due to pro-male bias, women (Study 1) reported lower interest and men (Study 2) reported greater interest in the science activity, and interest, in turn, positively predicted subsequent requests for career information in both studies. Implications for understanding diverging science interests between women and men are discussed.


Evolution of the Marriage Earnings Gap for Women

Chinhui Juhn & Kristin McCue

American Economic Review, May 2016, Pages 252-256

Using Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) panels linked to Social Security earnings records, we examine the earnings gap associated with marriage for cohorts of women born between 1936 and 1975. We compare ordinary least squares and fixed-effect estimates. We find that among women who work, the marital earnings gap has all but disappeared in fixed-effects estimates for recent birth cohorts. In fact, among women without children, married women earn more than single women, implying a diminished role for specialization when children are not present. In contrast, the motherhood earnings gap remains large even for recent birth cohorts.


Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Outsiders’ Perceptions of Diversity Mixed Messages

Leon Windscheid et al.

Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming

To attract a gender diverse workforce, many employers use diversity statements to publicly signal that they value gender diversity. However, this often represents a misalignment between words and actions (i.e., a diversity mixed message) because most organizations are male dominated, especially in board positions. We conducted 3 studies to investigate the potentially indirect effect of such diversity mixed messages through perceived behavioral integrity on employer attractiveness. In Study 1, following a 2 × 2 design, participants (N = 225) were either shown a pro gender diversity statement or a neutral statement, in combination with a gender diverse board (4 men and 4 women) or a uniform all-male board (8 men). Participants’ perceived behavioral integrity of the organization was assessed. In Study 2, participants (N = 251) either read positive or negative reviews of the organization’s behavioral integrity. Employer attractiveness was then assessed. Study 3 (N = 427) investigated the impact of board gender composition on perceived behavioral integrity and employer attractiveness using a bootstrapping procedure. Both the causal-chain design of Study 1 and 2, as well as the significance test of the proposed indirect relationship in Study 3, revealed that a diversity mixed message negatively affected an organization’s perceived behavioral integrity, and low behavioral integrity in turn negatively impacted employer attractiveness. In Study 3, there was also evidence for a tipping point (more than 1 woman on the board was needed) with regard to participants’ perceptions of the organization’s behavioral integrity.


Attractiveness Compensates for Low Status Background in the Prediction of Educational Attainment

Shawn Bauldry et al.

PLoS ONE, June 2016

Background: People who are perceived as good looking or as having a pleasant personality enjoy many advantages, including higher educational attainment. This study examines (1) whether associations between physical/personality attractiveness and educational attainment vary by parental socioeconomic resources and (2) whether parental socioeconomic resources predict these forms of attractiveness. Based on the theory of resource substitution with structural amplification, we hypothesized that both types of attractiveness would have a stronger association with educational attainment for people from disadvantaged backgrounds (resource substitution), but also that people from disadvantaged backgrounds would be less likely to be perceived as attractive (amplification).

Methods: This study draws on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health — including repeated interviewer ratings of respondents’ attractiveness — and trait-state structural equation models to examine the moderation (substitution) and mediation (amplification) of physical and personality attractiveness in the link between parental socioeconomic resources and educational attainment.

Results: Both perceived personality and physical attractiveness have stronger associations with educational attainment for people from families with lower levels of parental education (substitution). Further, parental education and income are associated with both dimensions of perceived attractiveness, and personality attractiveness is positively associated with educational attainment (amplification). Results do not differ by sex and race/ethnicity. Further, associations between perceived attractiveness and educational attainment remain after accounting for unmeasured family-level confounders using a sibling fixed-effects model.

Conclusions: Perceived attractiveness, particularly personality attractiveness, is a more important psychosocial resource for educational attainment for people from disadvantaged backgrounds than for people from advantaged backgrounds. People from disadvantaged backgrounds, however, are less likely to be perceived as attractive than people from advantaged backgrounds.


Do Performance Avoidance Goals Moderate the Effect of Different Types of Stereotype Threat on Women’s Math Performance?

Katherine Finnigan & Katherine Corker

Journal of Research in Personality, August 2016, Pages 36–43

Stereotype threat is considered to be a robust effect that explains persistent gender gaps in math performance and scientific career trajectories. Some evidence suggests stereotype threat effects are buffered by adoption of performance avoidance goals (Chalabaev et al., 2012). With 590 American female participants, we closely replicated Chalabaev et al. (2012). Results showed no significant main or interaction effects for stereotype threat or performance avoidance goals, despite multiple controls. We conclude that effects of stereotype threat might be smaller than typically reported and find limited evidence for moderation by avoidance achievement goals. Accordingly, stereotype threat might not be a major part of the explanation for the gender gap in math performance, consistent with recent meta-analyses (Flore & Wicherts, 2015).


Cognitive Difficulty and Format of Exams Predicts Gender and Socioeconomic Gaps in Exam Performance of Students in Introductory Biology Courses

Christian Wright et al.

CBE Life Sciences Education, June 2016

Recent reform efforts in undergraduate biology have recommended transforming course exams to test at more cognitively challenging levels, which may mean including more cognitively challenging and more constructed-response questions on assessments. However, changing the characteristics of exams could result in bias against historically underserved groups. In this study, we examined whether and to what extent the characteristics of instructor-generated tests impact the exam performance of male and female and middle/high- and low-socioeconomic status (SES) students enrolled in introductory biology courses. We collected exam scores for 4810 students from 87 unique exams taken across 3 yr of the introductory biology series at a large research university. We determined the median Bloom’s level and the percentage of constructed-response questions for each exam. Despite controlling for prior academic ability in our models, we found that males and middle/high-SES students were disproportionately favored as the Bloom’s level of exams increased. Additionally, middle/high-SES students were favored as the proportion of constructed-response questions on exams increased. Given that we controlled for prior academic ability, our findings do not likely reflect differences in academic ability level. We discuss possible explanations for our findings and how they might impact how we assess our students.


Why the Gap? Determinants of Self-Employment Earnings Differentials for Male and Female Millennials in the US

Jessica Simon & Megan McDonald Way

Journal of Family and Economic Issues, June 2016, Pages 297-312

We investigated gender differences in self-employment earnings for US Millennials, and whether differences could be attributed to individual characteristics, business characteristics, or factors related to household formation, such as marriage and parenthood. Using a nationally representative dataset of US youth, we found significant earnings differences favoring men and suggestive evidence of a “motherhood earnings penalty” (Budig and England 2001, p. 204–225). After controlling for business characteristics, however, the effect of gender itself was not statistically significant and the effect of motherhood only approached statistical significance, suggesting that gendered choices and paths explain earnings differences, not gender or motherhood per se. Future work would benefit from a larger dataset and should explore the role of work location and education in earnings.


Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards: Do Women Contribute Unique Skills?

Daehyun Kim & Laura Starks

American Economic Review, May 2016, Pages 267-271

We show that gender diversity in corporate boards could improve firm value because of the contributions that women make to the board. Prior studies examine valuation effects of gender-diverse boards and reach mixed conclusions. To help resolve this conundrum, we consider how gender diversity could affect firm value, that is, what mechanisms could explain how female directors benefit corporate board performance. We hypothesize and provide evidence that women directors contribute to boards by offering specific functional expertise, often missing from corporate boards. The additional expertise increases board heterogeneity which Kim and Starks (2015) show can increase firm value.


Late for the Meeting: Gender, Peer Advising, and College Success

Jimmy Ellis & Seth Gershenson

American University Working Paper, May 2016

Many male and first-generation college goers struggle in their first year of postsecondary education. Mentoring programs have been touted as a potential solution to help such students acclimate to college life, yet causal evidence on the impact of such programs, and the factors that influence participation in them, is scant. This study leverages a natural experiment in which peer advisors (PA) were quasi-randomly assigned to first-year university students to show that: (i) male students were significantly more likely to voluntarily meet their assigned PA when the PA was also male and (ii) these compliers were significantly more likely to persist into the second year of postsecondary schooling. We find no effect of being assigned to a same-sex PA on female students' use of the PA program, nor do we find any evidence that the PA program affected subsequent academic performance (GPAs).


Do Men Advance Faster Than Women? Debunking the Gender Performance Gap in Two Massively Multiplayer Online Games

Cuihua Shen et al.

Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, forthcoming

Prior research on digital games illustrates a perceived gender gap in participation and performance, suggesting men as playing more and better than women. This article challenges the gender gap using longitudinal behavioral data of men and women in 2 MMOs in the United States and China. Results show that women advance at least as fast as men do in both games. Thus, perceived gender-based performance disparities seem to result from factors that are confounded with gender (i.e., amount of play), not player gender itself. We conclude that the stereotype of female players as inferior is not only false, but also a potential cause for unequal participation in digital gaming.


The Math Gender Gap: The Role of Culture

Natalia Nollenberger, Núria Rodríguez-Planas & Almudena Sevilla

American Economic Review, May 2016, Pages 257-261

This paper investigates the effect of gender-related culture on the math gender gap by analysing math test scores of second-generation immigrants, who are all exposed to a common set of host country laws and institutions. We find that immigrant girls whose parents come from more gender-equal countries perform better (relative to similar boys) than immigrant girls whose parents come from less gender-equal countries, suggesting an important role of cultural beliefs on the role of women in society on the math gender gap. The transmission of cultural beliefs accounts for at least two thirds of the overall contribution of gender-related factors.


Longitudinal Analysis of Gender Differences in Academic Productivity Among Medical Faculty Across 24 Medical Schools in the United States

Anita Raj et al.

Academic Medicine, forthcoming

Purpose: To examine gender differences in academic productivity, as indicated by publications and federal grant funding acquisition, among a longitudinal cohort of medical faculty from 24 U.S. medical schools, 1995 to 2012-2013.

Method: Data for this research were taken from the National Faculty Survey involving a survey with medical faculty recruited from medical schools in 1995, and followed up in 2012-2013. Data included surveys and publication and grant funding databases. Outcomes were number of publications, h-index, and principal investigator on a federal grant in the prior two years. Gender differences were assessed using negative binomial regression models for publication and h-index outcomes, and logistic regression for the grant funding outcome; analyses adjusted for race/ethnicity, rank, specialty area, and years since first academic appointment.

Results: Data were available for 1,244 of the 1,275 (98%) subjects eligible for the follow-up study. Men were significantly more likely than women to be married/partnered, have children, and hold the rank of professor (P < .0001). Adjusted regression models documented that women had a lower rate of publication (relative number = 0.71; 95% CI = 0.63, 0.81; P < .0001) and h-index (relative number = 0.81; 95% CI = 0.73, 0.90; P < .0001) relative to men, but there was no gender difference in grant funding.

Conclusions: Women faculty acquired federal funding at similar rates as male faculty, yet lagged behind in terms of publications and their impact. Medical academia must consider how to help address ongoing gender disparities in publication records.


STEM Training and Early Career Outcomes of Female and Male Graduate Students: Evidence from UMETRICS Data Linked to the 2010 Census

Catherine Buffington et al.

American Economic Review, May 2016, Pages 333-338

Women are underrepresented in science and engineering, with the underrepresentation increasing in career stage. We analyze gender differences at critical junctures in the STEM pathway -- graduate training and the early career -- using UMETRICS administrative data matched to the 2010 Census and W-2s. We find strong gender separation in teams, although the effects of this are ambiguous. While no clear disadvantages exist in training environments, women earn 10% less than men once we include a wide range of controls, most notably field of study. This gap disappears once we control for women's marital status and presence of children.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.