Friday Feminine Angle: The role of society in gender differences during competition performance
Last week we looked at the likelihood of women to compete and found out the ladies are 45% less likely to compete than their male counterparts. Most of this research was carried out in mixed gender environments and we could even say a Western male dominated society. So the question that I wanted to look at is whether society has a role to play in our different competition viewpoints.
In 2009 a UK study found that that girls from single sex schools were more competitive than girls from co-ed institutions. In mixed schools girls were more likely to be pressurised to maintain their gender roles. In a separate study of school children competing in a running race and having a first run in single gender pairs and a second run in ability based pairs. What researchers found is that boys performance increased when paired against a girl, however for girls performance remained consistent regardless of pairing against boys or girls.
Behavioural economists compared competition performance between men and women in the patriarchal society of the Masaai tribe in Tanzania and the matrilineal/ matrilocal society of the Khasi in India. Remarkable they found that men are more competitive in a patriarchal society and women are more competitive in a matrilineal/ matrilocal society. The existence of societal structures to support a view of the world as it should be, seems to have a significant impact on competition performance regardless of gender. Knowing your place in society due to role models and the inbuilt confidence this also brings with seems to be the differentiator.
With most gamification initiatives happening in largely patriarchal corporate structures, encouraging female participation is an interesting challenge. The above research may already describe why less women take up the higher roles of the management echelons in these same structures, so it will be key to design gamification in such a way that individual participation is higher value than the competitive element, to keep the female workforce on board. Any rules provided need to be transparent and equal to all participants. Building performance confidence whilst participating in a gamified process will also go some way to encourage both genders to have a positive experience.
What else would you suggest to include in gamification design to encourage ladies and gentlemen to participate confidently?