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In Competition, Men and Women Use Their Gender Strategically to Get Ahead

New research from NYU Stern demonstrates how both sexes use gender biases to their advantage
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--“When push comes to shove, both men and women are guilty of using their gender to be successful,” says NYU Stern Professor of Marketing Priya Raghubir.

“Male–Female Dynamics in Groups: A Field Study of The Weakest Link”

In a recent field study of the hit show “The Weakest Link,” Raghubir and co-author Ana Valenzuela of Baruch College examined the decisions made by males and females who are competing about who to eliminate or to promote within the group. The authors found that both men and women use their gender in three strategic ways:

  • As a source of collusion or conspiracy
  • As a self-enhancement tool
  • As a way to pinpoint the player who would maximize their chances of winning

The authors also found that group makeup (number of men vs. women) and different levels of ability within the group can help predict the way in which competitors strategically use their gender. “This new insight into group dynamics could have implications for managing highly competitive environments in varied industries ranging from sports to finance,” explains Raghubir.

After analyzing 20 episodes of the “The Weakest Link” and conducting game simulations, the researchers also identified nine patterns of gender-based group dynamics:
  1. Eat Your Own – both genders vote off members of their own sex
  2. Old Boys’ Club – males favor males
  3. Power Girls – females favor females
  4. Females as Finalists – both genders favor females
  5. Male Chauvinism – both genders favor males
  6. Queen Bee – females favor males
  7. Alpha Male – males favor females
  8. Battle of the Sexes – both genders vote off members of the opposite sex
  9. Bounded Rationality – no group bias in male or female competitors

“Being able to identify these patterns can help managers predict potentially harmful vs. productive situations within an organization,” the authors emphasized.

Raghubir’s co-authored paper, “Male–Female Dynamics in Groups: A Field Study of The Weakest Link,” is forthcoming in the February 2010 issue of Small Group Research.

To read the full paper, visit:

To speak with Professor Priya Raghubir, please contact her directly at 212-998-0727,; or contact Carolyn Ritter in NYU Stern’s Office of Public Affairs, 212-998-0624,


NYU Stern
Professor Priya Raghubir, 212-998-0727
NYU Stern
Carolyn Ritter, 212-998-0624

February 18, 2010: