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Home | Events Archive | Gender Differences in Goal-Setting: Evidence from a Field Experiment

Gender Differences in Goal-Setting: Evidence from a Field Experiment

  • Series
    Research on Monday
  • Speaker(s)
    Sarah Smith (University of Bristol, United Kingdom)
  • Field
    Organizations and Markets
  • Location
    Erasmus University, Theil building, Room C1-3
  • Date and time

    November 25, 2019
    12:00 - 13:00


The question of how to motivate effort and improve performance is important in work and non-work settings. Introducing competition is often seen as one way to increase effort but it may put women at a disadvantage compared to men. What is needed is a way of motivating effort that is gender neutral, i.e. something that is equally effective, in terms of improving performance, for men and women. This paper presents evidence on gender differences in the performance-effect of setting oneself a goal. It is the first paper, as far as we are aware, to identify a causal effect of setting oneself a goal – previous experimental studies have captured intention to treat effects of nudges to set goals. It is also the first to study the causal effects of men and women setting goals of different values, i.e. low-value versus high-value goals. Studying the effect of different-value goals turns out to be very important. The most striking empirical findings in our paper relate to the differential effect of goals of different values for men and women. Specifically we find that high-value goals improve performance for men and low-value goals lead to a worse outcome compared to no goal while, by contrast, low-value goals – and only low-value goals – improve performance for women. We discuss what our findings imply in underlying preferences and the implications for using goals to improve performance.