It pays to be a man: rewards for leaders in a coordination game

Philip J. Grossman, Catherine Eckel, Mana Komai, Wei Zhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


We address gender differences in leader effectiveness and followers’ perceptions of leaders’ effectiveness. Our experimental design removes gender-linked factors that might affect leadership success, such as risk-taking and competitiveness. We employ a repeated weakest-link coordination game. Subjects first complete 10 periods without a leader, and then complete 10 additional periods after a leader is introduced. The leader's intervention consists of a short, semi-scripted speech advising followers on how to maximize earnings. Followers then choose a costly bonus for the leader. The leader's gender is the only variable that changes across sessions. Our results suggest that women are assessed less positively and rewarded less generously than equally effective men. Even women who are as competitive and risk loving as men may find it difficult to attain positions and succeed at the upper levels of business and government. While our findings may not fully explain why women of intelligence, character, and training are underrepresented in higher echelons of the society, they do shed light on a piece of this puzzle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-215
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • Coordination game
  • Gender
  • Leadership

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