We conduct a laboratory experiment to study the impact of affirmative action on the choice to compete in a multistage elimination contest. In particular, we assess whether gender quotas imposed in the final stage increase the share of female entrants and winners already in the first round of the tournament. In a treatment without quotas we reproduce the standard result from one-shot tournaments that high performing women shy away from competitions they could win. Adding gender quotas in the second stage induces high ability women to compete in both stages of the tournament, while it does not significantly affect men’s decisions. Response to affirmative action is strongest among women with intermediate guessed ranks. Overall, we find that the affirmative action treatment increases female representation in both stages without harming efficiency.
(joint with Eszter Czibor)