Experimental tests for gender effects in a principal-agent game

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Andrew B Whitford
Holona L Ochs


Gender, Principal-agent theory, Incentives, Trust, Benevolence


Traditional arguments against women as leaders suggest that women would not be extended the trust necessary for leadership and/or that women undermine their own bargaining position by extending too much trust to others. We examine data from a laboratory test in which pairs of subjects are given the task of negotiating a wage-labor agreement.  We first derive the optimal contract offer for principals and response by agents. We find that men and women do not reach different bargaining outcomes. We also find that women in authority are perceived as more trustworthy than men with authority, and women are no more or less trusting than men of their superiors or subordinates. The perceived trust is not rooted in differential wage terms but is based on the negotiation setting. Thus, women are likely to be extended the trust necessary to lead and are not likely to produce outcomes that are significantly different from men.

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