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Challenge-seeking and the gender wage gap: A lab-in-the-field experiment with cleaning personnel

Frauke von Bieberstein, Stefanie Jaussi and Claudia Vogel

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2020, vol. 175, issue C, 251-277

Abstract: The present research examines gender differences in challenge-seeking behavior in different work environments. We address the bottom end of the job spectrum with typical low-skill entry-level jobs, where the willingness to embrace new challenges is an important driver for professional advancement. The experimental results are based on a lab-in-the-field experiment with workers from a Swiss commercial cleaning company. Women are 43 percentage points less likely than men to accept a high-paying challenge in the control treatment with two levels of difficulty. In a slightly re-framed decision environment that offers a third, even more extreme, challenge to choose, female challenge-seeking increases by nearly 80%, while men’s challenge-seeking remains at very high levels. This significantly reduces the gender wage gap in our setting. We discuss anchoring and the compromise effect as potential reasons for our result. This study contributes to the present debate on affirmative action, and suggests that minimally invasive interventions, like the presentation of challenges, may be a fruitful option to promote the success of women in the workplace.

Keywords: Gender wage gap; Challenge-seeking; Context sensitivity; Lab-in-the-field experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J16 J70 M14 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2020.03.037

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