Men (and Women) Are Biased Against Women (Blog Post)December 13, 2018
When I mention gender bias in mixed company, the immediate reaction is predictable: men get their backs up and women’s eyes grow wide. It changes when I say the research consistently shows that men and women exhibit bias against women.
A recent German study proved exactly that. Researchers used two models to detect the prevalence of prejudice among participants: either a conventional direct question or an indirect question designed to mitigate pressure to express socially acceptable views.
When asked the direct question, 10% of women and 36% of men report prejudicial views towards women leaders. Those numbers jumped to 28% of women and 45% of men when participants responded to the indirect question.
What does this mean? As one researcher put it, “women are much more reluctant than men to express their prejudice against women leaders.”
This bias translates into actual dollars. When professors were given identical resumes for a lab technician where the only difference was male-sounding and female-sounding names, male and female professors consistently rated the male-sounding applicants as more competent than the female ones. The average recommended salary for males was $30,328 and $26,508 for the females, according to a study by Yale.
Women are always baffled by female complicity. But it’s easier to understand when you consider that intractable element of many cultures throughout history: the patriarchy.
For thousands of years and continuing to the present, men have overwhelmingly led our political, economic, and social institutions. Should it be any surprise that men and women alike are products of our environment?
The trouble is that this conditioning starts quite young. According to the American Time Use Survey, sons were paid twice as much as daughters for chores at home, and daughters put in 50% more time than sons. Further, girls did more inside chores, like cleaning the house, and boys were more likely to mow the lawn.
And conditioning continues throughout our lifetimes. So, if men and women are both perpetuating gender bias, what do we do to stop it?
We start with awareness and partnership around these issues—after all, we do see superior outcomes from working more inclusively. But we won’t see such results if we don’t make the effort to work together to eliminate the biases that prevent us from bringing out the best in each other.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Kathleen Brush has a Ph.D. in management and international studies. She was a turnaround executive for twenty years, but today she focuses on advancing women in leadership and writing. An upcoming book attempts to minimize bias that comes from cultural misunderstandings.