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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Do Women Choke Under Pressure?

Slate has a piece up on a theory as to why there are fewer women than men among the elite of corporate America. The theory the writer posits is that women are more prone than men to choke when under pressure. Read the piece.

My opinion? There is obviously no indication as to how much of the "evidence" cited is actually proof of any inherent weakness women exhibit when in competition. There is really no way to know whether women "choke" when competing because there is so much riding against them - as the article points out: "among the highest paid corporate executives, only 2.5 percent are women" - or whether women's poor representation in the upper echelons of corporate America is a actually a manifestation of that tendency to choke.

I think a study like this needs a truly level playing field to present real-life results. As a matter of fact, this point from the article, regarding experiments run on the subject, kind of makes exactly that case:
Competition—against anyone—improves men's performance.

Competition against women improves women's performance.

But in competition against men, women do no better than when they're working in isolation.
Thoughts? Theories? Ideas?

4 Comments:

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4:01 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I wonder if part of it is self-fulfilling. My brother was noting last night that even star athletes choke... and often, it is in situations that were specifically discussed and put into their head in advance. "LeBron James is struggling from the free-throw line" - his free throw shooting gets even worse. Athletes who normally rely on natural talent especially tend to make more errors when they start overthinking, but part of the problem is the person thinking "I have a hard time winning at this/doing this."

Women are not expected to succeed at the higher levels of business at this point - or at least, many may think so. They may think that to beat out the men they are competing against, they need to do more, push harder, etc... and perhaps they're right, to an extent. But they also place enough pressure on themselves that they force themselves to make 'unforced errors', in the end costing them that chance at the top job.

This would also fit in to why they DO perform better against other women.

7:49 PM  
Blogger keithninety said...

Mom, you read too much shtus. You can throw out 90+% of the stuff you read in the pop magazines.

10:41 AM  
Blogger RaggedyMom said...

Orthomom, let me tell you assuredly - if someone's really pressuring me, I have no qualms about choking them ;)

6:35 PM  

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