Women can compete as much as men when the reward benefits one’s children.

Every human face intra sexual competition. Since we adopted monogamy, male and female must compete between themselves to attract potential mates. A lot of the evolutionary literature has been dedicated to find how intra sexual competition differ between each sex. One main consensus among studies, though, is that female have a lower desire to compete than men, which is why so few of them are found in top-ranking professional positions.

Yet, most studies have used cash rewards to mesure competitive traits. This is a huge bias since we know that women find attractive the ability to get resources. This makes money reward probably more important for men who want to show of their value and their ability to be good providers. On the other hand, we might expect women to be as much competitive, if not even more, when it’s time to secure resources for their offspring. 

This study, published in October 2015, tends to support this idea. When they used cash rewards, significantly more men entered a tournament than women. When they used book vouchers, which I guess was supposed to represent a good resource for potentiel children, the difference disappeared, with more women entering the competition and many men dropping it.

I think this is interesting since it confirms some findings we already knew.

In the cash treatment, a woman is about 12 percentage points (SE, 0.049) less likely to enter the competition than a man with the same compulsory tournament score, risk tolerance, and confidence

Overall, their conclusion is that women are indeed just as competitive as men when it comes to get resources for their offspring.

Consistent with newer interdisciplinary hypotheses about female competition, our experimental results show that women can compete as much as men once we change the experimental reward medium to something more in line with women’s goal: the benefit of one’s children

The study was well powered (n=358), but I think that there’s a huge bias since the role of nurture and culture was not accounted on. The study was made in China, and I might have expected different results in America where women can expect to enter the labour market and gain their own freedom without waiting for a man to be a good provider. I do agree, though, that it’s another argument that goes along biology to favour new kind of policies, like rewarding professional achievement with high quality on-site daycare, after school enrichment programs, tutor allowances, or more flexibility to reduce hours worked, in order to attract more female into the work force.



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