New studies by economists show that across cultures, men aren't necessarily more competitive than women. Maybe it's time to lay this particular gender stereotype to rest.
Ray Fisman of Slate writes, "it's a classic stereotype, and not just on Wall Street: Men aggressively compete; women collaborate and nurture." And indeed, this gender-essentialist explanation gets trotted out to explain everything from the wage gap to the problems of women's professional sports. But according to economists, competitiveness may be (surprise, surprise) culture-dependent. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh gave male and female students an adding task, and told them they could win a monetary reward for each correct solution, or for beating other players in the tournament. Men were twice as likely to choose the tournament, despite the fact that they were no better at adding than women. But when economists Uri Gneezy, Ken Leonard, and John List (the last is referenced in Superfreakonomics) performed a similar experiment, using a ball-tossing game instead of adding, the results were more complicated.