Date of This Version

December 2009


Gender gaps in income and level of position in the workplace are widespread. One explanation for this inequality is that the genders perform differently under competitive conditions, as previous experimental studies have found a significant gender gap in competitive tasks that are perceived to favor men. In this paper, we use a verbal task that is perceived to favor women and find no gender difference under competition per se. We also reject the hypothesis that a .stereotype threat. explains the inability of women to improve performance under competition. We propose an alternative explanation for gender inequality: namely, that women and men respond differently to time pressure. With reduced time pressure, competition in verbal tasks greatly increases the performance of women, such that women significantly outperform men. This effect appears largely due to the fact that extra time in a competition improves the quality of women’s work, leading them to make fewer mistakes. On the other hand, men use this extra time to increase the quantity of work, which results in a greater number of mistakes.