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New project examines the role of overconfidence in gender inequality

2 December 2020

A new UCL Institute of Education (IOE) project examining the role of overconfidence, ambition, and risk taking as drivers of gender inequality has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation.

Man commenting at a symposium. Image: Sam Johnson (CC BY 2.0)

Led by Dr Nikki Shure, the project will look at how overconfidence drives gender inequality in the school-to-work transition and early career labour market outcomes.

Using UK longitudinal data from the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Dr Shure will explore occupational aspirations, university plans and early career outcomes and wages across three British cohorts: the British Cohort Study (BCS70), Next Steps, and the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS).

Through using these different cohort studies, the researchers will be able to document how the importance of overconfidence, ambition, and risk taking in explaining gender inequality has changed across three recent generations.

They also aim to disentangle the role of nature versus nurture in risk taking as a driver of gender inequality.

Dr Shure said: “Recent figures show that progress on eliminating the gender wage gap has been stagnant. At the same time, a range of studies has shown that men are more likely than women to overclaim knowledge or expertise, believe in their own abilities, demonstrate ambition, and take risks.

“This project will bring the key concepts of overconfidence, ambition, and risk taking, identified by psychologists and human resources (HR) professionals as important, into the analysis of gender gaps in occupational, university, and early career labour market outcomes.

“It will also attempt to separate the socialisation of boys and girls from inherited traits through the use of polygenic risk scores on risk tolerance and early measures of the other socio-emotional characteristics using longitudinal data.”

‘Overconfidence, ambition, and risk taking and gender inequality in the school-to-work transition and early career labour market outcomes’ will begin on 1 January 2021 and run until September 2023.

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Photographer credit: Sam Johnson. Len Collin. Panel 2a: Global Revisions via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)