A recent literature emphasizes that gender differences in the labor market may in part be driven by a gender gap in willingness to compete. However, whereas experiments in this literature typically investigate willingness to compete in private environments, real world competitions often have a more public nature, which introduces potential social image concerns. If such image concerns are important, and men and women differ in the degree to which they want to be seen as competitive, making tournament entry decisions publicly observable may further exacerbate the gender gap. We test this prediction using a laboratory experiment (N = 784) that varies the degree to which the decision to compete, and its outcome, is publicly observable. We find that public observability does not alter the magnitude of the gender gap in willingness to compete in an economically or statistically significant way.
gender differences competitiveness social image experiment