What is it about?

When employees have to multitask, are there differences between men and women in the tasks they are motivated to work on? We find that women are motivated by competitive prize-paying tasks and the tasks that contribute to societal value (benefit to third parties) to be swayed away from piece-rate paying tasks. On the other hand, men are only motivated by competitive prizes to sway them away from piece-rate paying tasks and societal benefit only plays no role to motivate them to work on such a task.

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Why is it important?

Given the importance that media and government organizations put on reporting gender pay gaps and decreasing inequality between genders, we need to understand what could be the mechanisms behind the gaps. The gender pay gap is an intricate issue that needs to be studied thoroughly. It is not simply a result of discrimination or bias. Our study shows that women are more attracted to tasks that do not bring them direct benefits but have societal value, while for men it is only the direct benefit to one's self that motivates them to choose a work task.


This was a very interesting project to work on and I do hope that our results open further questions for research. Why are men and women motivated to work on different work tasks? Is it due to nature or nurture? Are women instilled to care about societal benefits while men are competitive from birth or is it some hard-wired biological trait of female and male brains? I hope our article is thought-provoking to ask such questions.

zahra murad
University of Portsmouth

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Incentives and gender in a multi-task setting: An experimental study with real-effort tasks, PLoS ONE, March 2019, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213080.
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