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Businesswoman standing in front of creative concept to show how can women be more creative

Stop making female employees compete with each other

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Hiring women is definitely a good idea to help boost productivity, but what can you do to ensure your workplace culture is supportive of them and their working habits?

According to a new study from Washington University in St. Louis, killing intergroup competition is a good method of encouraging female employees to be more creative.

The study (Intergroup Competition as a Double-Edged Sword: How Sex Composition Regulates the Effects of Competition on Group Creativity) polled 50 teams of scientists, engineers and technicians at a global oil and gas company and conducted an experiment involving male and female college students working together in groups.

It concluded that while men benefit creatively from going head-to-head with other groups, groups of women operate better in less competitive situations.

As intergroup competition heats up, men become more creative and women less so.

“Women contributed less and less to the team’s creative output when the competition between teams became cutthroat, and this fall-off was most pronounced in teams composed entirely of women,” Markus Baer, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor of organisational behavior at Olin Business School, said.

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It highlighted that managers should be cautioned about attempting to use competition to spur creativity. In fact, the results suggested intense competition could erase the creative advantage that women tend to enjoy over their male counterparts.

“If teams work side by side, women tend to perform better and even outperform men – they’re more creative,” Baer said. “As soon as you add the element of competition though, the picture changes.

“Men under those circumstances gel together. They become more interdependent and more collaborative, and women just do the opposite.”

However, he emphasised nothing in his study suggested women were inherently bad at competition. Rather, it highlighted that gender stereotypes still continue to influence behaviour in the workplace.

“It’s not that women stink at competing, it’s that the way society views women and the way we view competition, gender specific, has an impact and that impact is observable in the lab as well as in the field,” Baer said. “It changes behaviours and outcomes.”

Image: Shutterstock

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