Re:Gender works to end gender inequity by exposing root causes and advancing research-informed action. Working with multiple sectors and disciplines, we are shaping a world that demands fairness across difference.
“Fairy tales are more than true—not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” (G.K. Chesterton)
Halloween is scary. A coven of witches hang out randomly on a street corner. A zombie passing by in a taxi makes eye contact with you. Small (hopefully!) werewolves ring your doorbell and howl for candy. The fact that the streets crawl with monsters on the holiday specifically designated to be scary is no coincidence.
I’ll admit it may seem odd that being labeled “angry” could serve any black person well. Let’s face it, leaders of the Civil Rights movement likely adopted a non-violent stance for both moral and practical reasons.
But in a recent study I conducted with Robert Livingston and Ella Washington of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, we found that black women leaders who displayed dominant behavior when interacting with subordinates got more favorable reviews than their white female or black male counterparts who behaved the same way. In fact, black women were evaluated comparably to white male leaders who displayed similarly dominant and assertive behavior.
Existing studies have shown that professional white men have been granted greater status and power when they’ve expressed anger rather than sadness. Our findings suggest that black women may benefit from such expressions, too. In other words, because assertiveness and dominance are stereotypical characteristics for black women, they may not provoke the same backlash as they would for white women and black men.
Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire, in collaboration with Mathieson & Brooke Tailors, conducted a study in which over 300 adults (men and women) looked at images of a man and a woman for just 3 seconds before making 'snap judgements' about them. In some pictures the woman wore a skirt suit and in others a trouser suit of the same colour and fabric. After just a 3 second exposure the female in the skirt suit received more positive ratings than in the trouser suit.
Just a few of the snap judgements we're prone to make about others.
On what basis?
Many people including psychologists think it's all to do with facial features (cue Roberta Flack singing The first time ever I saw your face). Symmetrical faces and wide-apart eyes are good, anger is a no-no. But my latest research has revealed that clothes makes a huge difference to these first impressions. And the upshot of it all is (you'll like this one)....clothes can be a really marvellous investment!
We carried out the research at the University of Hertfordshire in collaboration with Mathieson & Brooke Tailors. Over 300 adults (men and women) looked at images of a man and a woman for just 3 seconds before making 'snap judgements' about them. In some of the pictures the man wore a made-to-measure suit. In others he wore a very similar off-the-peg suit bought on the high street. In some pictures the woman wore a skirt suit and in others a trouser suit of the same colour and fabric.
After just a 3-second exposure people judged the man more favourably in the bespoke suit. They rated him as more confident, successful, flexible and a higher earner than when he wore a high street equivalent. Similarly the woman received more positive ratings in a skirt suit than in a trouser suit. Since both models' faces in the pictures were blanked out these impressions must have been formed after quickly eyeing what they were wearing.
Clothes say a great deal about who we are and can signal our social status to others. It even starts in childhood - one study found that teachers made assumptions about children's academic ability based on their clothing. And research has even hinted that women should dress more like men if they want to succeed. A study by Forsythe (1990) tested this using a mock interview for a management position. The more masculine the clothing worn by female applicants the greater the perception of their management potential. Fortunately, although it used a different methodology, my findings suggest the opposite.
After just a 3 second exposure the female in the skirt suit received more positive ratings than in the trouser suit. It's reassuring that women can dress in more feminine ways and still be taken seriously. Be careful about the plunging neckline or micro-skirt though, you can take things too far and other research shows provocative clothing is viewed as indicative of low professional status.
New research from the University of New Hampshire Center for Venture Research shows that stereotypes about gender affect the investment decision-making of women, even among successful women.
The research by Jeffrey Sohl, director of the UNH Center for Venture Research, and John Becker-Blease, of Oregon State University, is presented in the July issue of the journal “Entrepreneurship, Theory and Practice.”It relies on a sample of data from 183 angel investment groups from 2000 to 2006 collected by the Center for Venture Research, which holds the most complete database of angel groups in the United States.
Researchers found that when an angel investment group had a small percentage of women, the group was more cautious about investing. However, when women comprised more than 10 percent of the investment group, their presence became associated with increased investments. The results surprised the researchers.
“At first the results were counterintuitive, since previous research on women investing, in general, shows women to be more cautious investors. Since angel investing involves substantial risk, one would assume that this cautious behavior would also be exhibited in angel investors,” Sohl said. “However, our research indicates that when the number of women in an angel group increases, so does their investment activity as angel investors.”
The reason for this behavior appears to be based on “stereotype threat.” According to this psychological theory, when a stereotype exists about a person, that person will behave in a manner consistent with that stereotype when they are in a situation that highlights, or accentuates, this aspect of their status, whether that is gender, race or ethnicity.
“In the context of this research, this means that when there are few women in an angel group, the stereotype of cautious investing is accentuated. As the number of women increases, there is less of a stereotype -– there are more women so they are more recognized for their ability as investors and less because of their gender,” Sohl said.
The research indicates that the formation of women-dominated angel groups should be encouraged as a way to increase investment activity in entrepreneurial ventures. In addition, since social capital also contributes to angel investing -- angels invest in teams of four to five individuals -- and women tend to have more social capital with members of their own gender, the increase in women-dominated angel groups will have a potentially additional positive effect for both entrepreneurs and investors.
According to Sohl, the percentage of women angel investors has remained relatively constant over the last five years with women representing about 15 percent of angel investors.
“We have seen a slight increase in the number of women-owned businesses that are presenting to angel investors since 2006, when the percentage of women entrepreneurs presenting to angels was 13 percent and that has increased to 20 percent in both 2009 and 2010,” he said.
We examine the impact that gender diversity has on angel group investment behavior for a sample of 183 group-years between 2000 and 2006. Our evidence suggests that gender diversity is a significant predictor of group investment behavior, and that the proportion of women angels in the group has a negative though nonlinear effect on investment likelihood. These data are most consistent with a situational interpretation that women invest differently when they are in the small minority compared with other situations. These results have important implications for the availability of funds for women entrepreneurs and call for greater participation of women investors in the angel marketplace.
University of New Hampshire Center For Venture Research
According to a study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, both men and women tend to overlook the more subtle daily acts of sexism they encounter. Things such as calling women "girls" but not calling men "boys" or referring to a collective group as "guys" are forms of subtle sexism that creep into daily interactions. The study helps not only identify which forms of sexism are most overlooked by which sex, but also how noticing these acts can change people's attitudes. The study also goes on to differentiate the way men and women's beliefs change once they become aware of subtle sexism. Women need to "see the unseen," the authors note, to make corrections, whereas men need not only to be aware of the sexist behavior or comments, but also to feel empathy for the women targeted. These results are consistent with other studies which found that empathy is an effective method for reducing racial and ethnic prejudice.
Three experiments were conducted in the United States and Germany to test whether women and men endorse sexist beliefs because they are unaware of the prevalence of different types of sexism in their personal lives. Study 1 (N ¼ 120) and Study 2 (N ¼ 83) used daily diaries as a method to encourage individuals ‘‘to see the unseen.’’ Results revealed that encouraging women to pay attention to sexism, in comparison to attention to other social interactions, led to a stronger rejection of Modern Sexist, Neosexist, and Benevolent Sexist beliefs (Studies 1 and 2) and to negative evaluations of Modern and Benevolent Sexist men described in profiles as well as to more engagement in collective action on behalf of women (Study 2). In contrast, for men, paying attention to sexism did not have these effects. Results from Study 2 suggest, and from Study 3 (N ¼ 141) confirm, that men’s endorsement of Modern and Neosexist beliefs can be reduced if attention to sexism and emotional empathy for the target of discrimination is encouraged. Finally, a follow-up survey indicated that the attitude change in women and men was stable over time. The implications of these findings for interventions to reduce women’s versus men’s endorsement of sexist beliefs are discussed.
Association for Psychological Science: A new study published in Psychological Science tested the assumption that women are less willing to take risks than men. The research showed that when negative stereotypes about women (and positive stereotypes about men) were present, that people tended to stick to the behaviors dictated by the stereotypes--for example, women were more cautious and men took more risks.
"Anecdotally, many people believe that women are more risk averse and loss averse than men—that women make safer and more cautious financial decisions. And some research has supported this, suggesting that the gender differences may be biologically rooted or evolutionarily programmed.
But Priyanka B. Carr of Stanford University and Claude M. Steele of Columbia University thought that these differences might be the result of negative stereotypes—stereotypes about women being irrational and illogical. So they designed experiments to study how women make financial decisions, when faced with negative stereotypes and when not. Past research has shown that being faced with negative stereotypes about one's group can hamper intellectual performance, and Carr and Steele reasoned it could also affect financial decision making.
When the negative stereotype about women was not hinted at, there were no gender differences in financial decision making. Both men and women were moderately risk averse and loss averse. But when the negative stereotype was brought up, gender differences emerged.
Women made more cautious financial decisions: They were more likely to forgo lucrative opportunities so they could avoid risks and losses. Interestingly, when negative stereotypes about women (and therefore positive stereotypes about men) were relevant, men became more risk seeking. The stereotypical cues encouraged behavior that stuck to the stereotype. This suggests that earlier findings and anecdotes about differences in decision making between the sexes may actually be the result of gender stereotypes (and not the basis for them).
Reducing and removing negative stereotypes about women can leave both men and women free to make decisions they think are best. She says, 'Our argument is that people's decision making and financial choices should not be burdened by stereotypes being placed on them.'"
Society for Research in Child Development: A new study published in Child Development shows that when teachers call attention to gender in preschool classrooms children are then more likely to express stereotyped views of boys and girls.
"In many preschool classrooms, gender is very noticeable—think of the greeting, "Good morning, boys and girls" or the instruction, "Girls line up on this side, boys on that." A new study has found that when teachers call attention to gender in these simple ways, children are more likely to express stereotyped views of what activities are appropriate for boys and girls, and which gender they prefer to play with. The study, by researchers at The Pennsylvania State University, is published in the November/December 2010 issue of Child Development.
Children in the classrooms in which teachers avoided characterizations by sex showed no change in responses or behaviors over the two weeks. However, children in the other classrooms showed increases in stereotyped attitudes and decreases in their interest in playing with children of the other sex. They also were observed to play less with children of the other sex.
The findings extend earlier research showing that classroom environments that make divisions by gender lead to increased stereotypes among elementary-school-aged children. By highlighting the powerful effect of classroom environments on preschool children's gender-related beliefs and behaviors, the findings have implications for how teachers structure classrooms and interact with children."
EurekAlert: A new study shows that the math skills of boys and girls and women and men are equal. Stereotypes do affect performance, as differences only appear when parents, teachers, and other figures steer girls and women away from math.
"The mathematical skills of boys and girls, as well as men and women, are substantially equal, according to a new examination of existing studies in the current online edition of journal Psychological Bulletin.
Sara Lindberg, now a postdoctoral fellow in women's health at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, was the primary author of the meta-analysis in Psychological Bulletin.
The idea that both genders have equal math abilities is widely accepted among social scientists, Hyde adds, but word has been slow to reach teachers and parents, who can play a negative role by guiding girls away from math-heavy sciences and engineering. "One reason I am still spending time on this is because parents and teachers continue to hold stereotypes that boys are better in math, and that can have a tremendous impact on individual girls who are told to stay away from engineering or the physical sciences because 'Girls can't do the math.'"
Scientists now know that stereotypes affect performance, Hyde adds. "There is lots of evidence that what we call 'stereotype threat' can hold women back in math. If, before a test, you imply that the women should expect to do a little worse than the men, that hurts performance. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Wherever women are vastly underrepresented--whether in churches, high finance, or the highest levels of science--the argument for opening male preserves to women should not be based in dubious notions of female ethical superiority.
The empowerment of women is, above all, a matter both of common sense and justice. It is wrong to deny people power and opportunity because of their sex. And it is simply stupid to underutilize women's capacities. As to whether more women in power would reform Wall Street or the Catholic Church, we would have to wait and see. I think there will be many more women heads of Fortune 500 companies before we see the Catholic Church agree to a female priesthood.