Category: Gender

Describing Groups To Children Using Generic Language Can Accidentally Teach Them Social Stereotypes

By Matthew Warren

When we talk to children about the characteristics of boys and girls, our word choice and syntax can profoundly shape what they take away from the conversation. Even attempts to dispel stereotypes can backfire: as we recently reported, telling kids that girls are “as good as” boys at maths can actually leave them believing that boys are naturally better at the subject and that girls have to work harder.

Other work has shown that “generic” language can also perpetuate stereotypes: saying that boys “like to play football”, for instance, can make children believe that all boys like to play football, or that liking football is a fundamental part of being a boy.

Now a study in Psychological Science shows that when kids hear this kind of generic language, they don’t just make assumptions about the group that is mentioned — they also make inferences about unmentioned groups. That is, if children hear that boys like to play football, they might deduce that girls do not.

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Companies’ Succession Announcements Can Inadvertently Make Work Life Harder For Incoming Female CEOs

By Emma Young

When an organisation appoints a new male CEO, the announcement will typically highlight his past achievements and the competencies that make him ideal for the job. What if the new CEO is a woman? The widely expected, gender-neutral thing to do is, of course, to make precisely the same type of announcement. However, according to the team behind a new paper in the Journal of Applied Psychology, this can make work life more difficult for her, and shorten the time that she spends in that role. Priyanka Dwiwedi at Texas A&M University and her colleagues base this striking conclusion on an extensive analysis of data on women who have been appointed to top positions in the US, as well as in-depth interviews with female executives.

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Children As Young As Eight Show A Gender Gap In Negotiation

By Emma Young

Though the gender pay gap is narrowing in the UK, it still remains. It’s vital, then, to fully understand what causes it — and so what can be done to ensure that women are paid the same as men for doing the same work. Research does show that women are less likely than men to initiate salary negotiations, and also ask for less. Now a new study in Psychological Science reveals that a gender gap in negotiation emerges surprisingly early, becoming apparent among children aged just eight to nine. This implies that efforts to close the gender pay gap should start long before anyone even enters the workforce. 

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Longer Interview Shortlists Could Help Women Advance In Male-Dominated Industries

By Emily Reynolds

Despite many efforts to make workplaces more equitable, women are still frequently discriminated against at work. Companies run by women are judged more harshly on ethical failings, for instance, and women are more likely to be lied to in performance reviews. This discrimination doesn’t just happen in the workplace: it can happen before someone is even employed. A study from last year, for example, found that Black women with natural hair are seen as less competent and professional than their White counterparts when interviewing for jobs.

Now a new study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, has taken a look at what could be scuppering women’s chances even before they get to the interview stage. The team, led by Brian J Lucas from Cornell University, argues that in organisations where recruitment takes place on an informal basis, via colleague recommendations or other word-of-mouth networks, changes need to be made to the shortlisting process. When shortlists are longer, the results suggest, women are more likely to be seriously considered.

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Saying That Girls Are “Just As Good” As Boys At Maths Can Inadvertently Perpetuate Gender Stereotypes

By Emma Young

Though girls and boys do equally well on maths tests, the stereotype that girls aren’t as naturally able at maths — or as likely to be extremely smart — is adopted early; even 6-year-olds in the US endorse it. Of course, these stereotypes harm women in an educational setting and in their professional lives, point out the authors of a new study in Developmental Psychology. So it’s important to understand what gives rise to them. Eleanor Chestnut at Stanford University and her colleagues now report that one common and well-intentioned way of attempting to convey girls’ equality with boys actually backfires: saying that girls are “just as good” as boys at something leads the listener to conclude that boys are naturally better, and girls must work harder to equal them.

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Men Who Sleep Less Are Seen As More Masculine: A Stereotype With Potentially Damaging Consequences

By Emily Reynolds

There are some curious cultural ideas around sleep, namely that there’s something virtuous or impressive about not getting very much of it. “Burnout” is often shorthand for success: if you’re successful it follows that you’re also pretty busy, in which case you’re less likely to get enough sleep. Margaret Thatcher famously boasted that she only needed to sleep four hours a night, as has Donald Trump — though whether that bolsters or damages the prestige associated with sleepless nights probably depends on your politics.

There may also be links between sleep and perceptions of masculinity, a new paper in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research suggests. In a number of studies, Nathan B. Warren and Troy H. Campbell from the University of Oregon found that not only do we associate sleep deprivation with masculinity, but that men who sleep less actually experience more favourable social judgements than their better-rested counterparts.

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Women Are More Likely Than Men To Be Told “White Lies” In Performance Reviews

By Emily Reynolds

It’s not uncommon to tell a white lie at work: why you took a slightly too-long lunch break or how much you’ve really done on that big project. Often, white lies are socially useful — telling someone that you like what they’re wearing is probably a kinder option than admitting that you hate it, for example.

When it comes to performance reviews, however, white lies are less beneficial. The whole point of such a review is to help improve how someone is working and identify and mitigate potential problems, so lying defeats the object. And according to a new study from Cornell University’s Lily Jampol and Vivian Zayas, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, it’s women who most often bear the brunt of untruthful performance reviews.

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Gender Prejudice Is More Common In Languages With Grammatical Genders

By Emma Young

Does the language that you speak influence what you think? And do languages that assign a gender to most nouns — such as French and Spanish — lead speakers to feel differently about women versus men, compared with languages that don’t — such as Chinese? Both questions have been hotly debated. But now a major new study, involving an analysis of millions of pages of text in 45 different languages from all over the world, concludes that gendered languages shape prejudice against women.

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People Who See God As A White Man Tend To Prefer White Men For Leadership Positions

By Matthew Warren

When you picture God, who do you see: a young black woman, or an old white man? Chances are it’s the latter — and a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that that image has its consequences.

Across a series of seven studies, at team led by Steven O Roberts at Stanford University found that the way that we perceive God — and in particular our beliefs about God’s race — may influence our decisions about who should be in positions of leadership more generally. Continue reading “People Who See God As A White Man Tend To Prefer White Men For Leadership Positions”

Sexist Ideologies May Help Cultivate The “Dark Triad” Of Personality Traits

By Emma Young

The “dark triad” of personality traits — narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism — do not make for the nicest individuals. People who score highly on the dark triad are vain, callous and manipulative. They adopt a so-called “fast-life” strategy, characterised by impulsivity, opportunism and selfishness. Such individuals can succeed in the workplace, while failing to get on with others. They’re also more likely to cheat on their partners, and are deemed more alluring in speed-dating sessions.

Though these traits can bring advantages to the individual, they are clearly detrimental to those around them. So it’s important to understand what fosters them. Could particular attitudes in society, for example, help to encourage these dark traits?

A new study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, concludes that this may in fact be the case. Melissa Gluck at the University of Florida and her colleagues gathered evidence suggesting that sexism — “and the socially-supported, unearned male power and privilege that sexism reflects” — is linked to higher scores on measures of the dark triad. “If scholars can demonstrate that these malevolent traits are partly learned by growing up in sexist cultures, agents of personal and social change can help people recognise, understand, alter and replace these malevolent aspects of humanity,” the researchers write.

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