A new study Researchers from Harvard Business School and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania set out to determine whether men or women were more likely to positively evaluate their own work.
Despite the fact that men and women performed equally well on the test, women on average said they performed 15 points lower on the 100-point scale than men. Medium.
“When communicating with potential employers, women consistently provide less favorable assessments of their own past performance and potential future abilities than equally high-performing men,” the researchers wrote in the working paper distributed by the National. Bureau of Economic Research.
Researchers conducted an experiment where 900 workers were asked to take a 20-question Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, an exam used to determine if someone is qualified to enlist in the US armed forces.
Next, participants were asked to estimate the number of questions they thought they answered correctly on the test and to rate their overall performance in various ways, including on a scale of 0 to 100 where a 100 indicated that they fully believed they had passed the test well. test.
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The researchers ruled out various possible explanations for why women were less likely to self-promote. Even after some of the participants were told about their test results and how they compared to others’ scores, they still rated themselves lower than the men.
According to the authors of the working paper, this indicates that a trust gap alone does not explain the self-promotion gap.
Further additional testing by the researchers also ruled out the possibility that men are more likely to inflate a self-report due to incentives such as higher pay. Women were even more likely to rate themselves worse, whether or not a potential employer saw their test results or self-assessment.
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Among the remaining possible explanations, the researchers said their findings could suggest that women believe self-promotion is an inappropriate way to behave and/or that they are afraid of the possibility of a negative reaction by bragging about themselves. their abilities.
At the same time, they also pointed to other research that has shown that men are prone to inflating their performance estimates, but employers don’t always take this into account.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the gender gap in self-promotion, researchers have noted that it could have serious ripple effects on women’s careers. As they note, people are often asked to rate their skills when applying to schools, interviewing for jobs, or during performance reviews. As a result, they argue that the reluctance of many women to rate themselves more favorably could play into other gender gaps, such as those around education and pay.
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