Competing by Default: A New Way to Break the Glass Ceiling

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Available from: 
April 2018
Paper author(s): 
Nisvan Erkal
Lata Gangadharan
Erte Xiao
Gender Economics

Leadership selection in organizations often requires candidates to actively choose to participate in the competition. We conjecture that such an Opt-in mechanism may contribute to the gender gap observed in leadership positions. We design an Opt-out mechanism where the default is to compete for a leadership position and individuals can opt out of the competition. Data from our experiments show that women are more likely to compete for leadership positions under the Opt-out mechanism and this effectively reduces the gender gap in competition. When given a choice between the Opt-in and Opt-out mechanisms, individuals are equally likely to choose either one. We conclude that the Opt-out mechanism can be an effective and feasible way to break the glass ceiling.


Research section: 
Working Papers
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