Option to cooperate increases women's competitiveness and closes the gender gap

Alessandra Cassar, Mary L. Rigdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We advance the hypothesis that women are as competitive as men once the incentive for winning includes factors that matter to women. Allowing winners an opportunity to share some of their winnings with the low performers has gendered consequences for competitive behavior. We ground our work in an evolutionary framework in which winning competitions brings asymmetric benefits and costs to men and women. In the new environment, the potential to share some of the rewards from competition with others may afford women the benefit of reaping competitive gains without incurring some of its potential costs. An experiment (N = 438 in an online convenience sample of U.S. adults) supports our hypothesis: a 26% gender gap in performance vanishes once a sharing option is included to an otherwise identical winner-take-all incentive scheme. Besides providing a novel experiment that challenges the paradigm that women are not as motivated to compete as men, our work proposes some suggestions for policy: including socially-oriented rewards to contracts may offer a novel tool to close the persistent labor market gender gap.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)556-572
Number of pages17
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Competition
  • Dictator game
  • Gender differences
  • Social reward
  • Tournament

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Option to cooperate increases women's competitiveness and closes the gender gap'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this