Does society underestimate women? Evidence from the performance of female jockeys in horse racing

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Women are under-represented in many top jobs. We investigate whether biased beliefs about female ability - a form of ‘mistake-based discrimination’ - are partially responsible for this under-representation. We use more than 10 years of data on the performance of female jockeys in U.K. and Irish horse racing - a sport where, uniquely, men and women compete side-by-side - to evaluate the presence of such discrimination. The odds produced by the betting market provide a window onto society's beliefs about the abilities of women in a male-dominated occupation. We find that women are slightly underestimated, winning 0.3% more races than the market predicts. Female jockeys are underestimated to a greater extent in jump racing, where their participation is low. We discuss possible reasons for this association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106–118
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Early online date10 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • Gender
  • Glass ceiling
  • Discrimination
  • Horse racing

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