Abstract

Competition involves two main dimensions, a rivalry for resources and the ranking of relative performances. The latter yields a ranking in terms of social status. The rivalry for resources resulting from competitive incentives has been found to negatively affect women’s performance relative to that of men. However, little is known about gender differences in the performance consequences of status ranking. In our experiment we introduce a novel design to isolate status ranking from the rivalry for resources. Subjects do a summation task with a time limit and performance is measured by the number of correct summations. When there is no status ranking we find no gender differences in the number of attempted summations or in performance. By contrast, when there is status ranking men both significantly increase their pace and perform better. Remarkably, when women are subjected to status ranking, they significantly decrease their pace. The net result is striking. With status ranking (and no rivalry for resources) men work at a much faster pace and perform much better than women. These results suggest that increased participation in competitive environments could harm women’s labor market success along a hidden channel.