Photo by Aaron Mello
In the first chapter of Weinschenk’s “How to Get People to Do Stuff,” she states that while competition is a motivator for men, it does not work for women and specifically that men and women should not both be included in competition. While she references performance in competition based on specific gender matchups, it is important to identify factors that level the playing field for men and women in competition, specifically and especially in the digital world.
In the Quarterly Journal of Economics (2007), Niederle and Vesterlund examined deeper the relationship of gender and competition. While they are examining results to address women’s underrepresentation in leadership positions and among entire professions, they offer additional clues to better developing inclusive online environments. By identifying women’s preferences and motivators, we have an opportunity to welcome more gender equality into competitive spaces.
As children, when choosing activities, it was found that boys are drawn to competitive games while girls look for continuity with no clear end or winner. Continuing this trend through adulthood, twice as many men than women see themselves as competitive and thus, enjoy competing more. This is directly related to higher confidence levels in men with less risk aversion, as it it biology natural for women to avoid risk to protect their offspring. Another factor preventing women from competing is an aversion to receiving feedback. In the online game King of the World, approximately 60% of players are women, which could be caused by the game’s continuous play, collaborative approach, and resetting the playing field every 24 hours.
This means that when designing digital environments, we must be aware of specific elements like empowering women to raise confidence levels, mitigating risk factors and tailoring feedback to encourage equality in competitive environments. More encouragement when beginning an activity and less grave results and messaging could help bring more women to a platform.
Pattanaik (2005) notes that Information and Communication Technologies are a source of empowerment, specifically involving access to knowledge which could also help motivate women to participate in more online activities. This may suggest that educational elements within an online system would encourage more women participants.
There is hope on the horizon for more women’s empowerment online. Gallula and Frank (2014) state that while the most recent wave of Human Computer Interaction has focused on User Centered Design, the next major shift will be toward User Empowered Design which will surely deliver more gender equality and women competing online.
This post is a paper from my graduate studies in Digital Communication at the University of Baltimore.