Category: Gender

Supportive Male Allies Can Make Male-Dominated Workplaces Less Hostile For Women

By Emily Reynolds

Despite much work to counter unequal workforces in science, technology, engineering and maths, stereotypes about who will succeed in science still abound — and some research suggests that these biases can actively put people off certain careers or fields. Other papers find that the competitive nature of STEM courses and roles can be particularly damaging, leading to low feelings of belonging and subsequent low retention rates for minority groups.

A new paper looks at the role of men in countering hostile environments — in particular, how men can signal their support and respect for women colleagues. Over three studies, the University of Kansas team found that supportive male allies helped reduce feelings of isolation and hostility for their women colleagues, potentially offering a new way to combat inequality in STEM.

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Women And Early Career Academics Experience Imposter Syndrome In Fields That Emphasise Natural Brilliance

By Emily Reynolds

Imposter syndrome — the feeling that you don’t belong or aren’t capable at work or in education — can affect anybody. But people from underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to experience imposter syndrome: first generation university students, for example, or people of colour.

Imposter syndrome can be particularly acute in academia, where intellectual flair is prized. In fact, a new study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology finds that in fields in which intellectual “brilliance” is perceived to be a prerequisite to success, imposter syndrome is more likely to strike women and early-career academics.

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People Tend To Believe That Psychology Is A “Feminine” Discipline

By Emily Reynolds

Despite the fact that psychology students are more likely to be women than men, and that women outnumber men in the clinical psychology workforce, women in psychology publish less, receive fewer citations, and are underrepresented at senior positions within university departments. This juxtaposition of over and underrepresentation poses an interesting question about how people perceive gender roles within the field.

It’s this question Guy A. Boysen and team explore in a new study, published in the Journal of Social Psychology. They find that people associate psychology more strongly with femininity than masculinity — and that this may affect how men and women feel about working or studying within the field.

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Do Girls Really Show More Empathy Than Boys?

By Emma Young

Three people are walking down the street, two women and one man. One of the women trips and falls. Which of the two observers will feel more empathy for her pain? Hundreds of studies suggest that it’ll be the woman. However, these results almost overwhelmingly come from self-reports. Objective evidence that women genuinely feel more empathy than men is very thin on the ground. This has led to the idea that women report more empathy not because they actually feel it but to conform to societal expectations that they should. However, a new study in Scientific Reports claims to provide evidence that, even when they think no one else is looking or asking, girls show more empathy than boys.

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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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