Maggian V., Antonio Nicolò A, Montanari N. (2020).

Do quotas help women to climb the career ladder? A laboratory experiment. European Economic Review, vol. 123


Women are less likely to enroll in selective or scientific courses, applying for promotions and are particularly underrepresented in both middle and top positions in the STEM field. Quota are often advocated as an instrument to reduce this gender gap, but it remains unclear at what step of the career ladder they more effectively foster women’s reaching the top. Many factors may affect quota’s success or failure, such as how they would in turn affect teamwork and trust between members within organizations or coordination in applying for promotions. In this paper, by means of a laboratory experiment implementing a two-stage tournament, we evaluate the impact of three different interventions in affecting individual decision to climb the career ladder, abstracting away from other possible confounding factors. We find that, compared with no intervention, a gender quota introduced in the initial stage of competition was ineffective in encouraging women to compete for the top; quotas introduced in the final stage of competition or at both stages increased women’s willingness to compete for the top, without distorting the performance of the winners.