Yet another study demonstrates that gender bias is real. A study of 1,700 college biology students shows that male students evaluate their male peers more highly than “better-performing women.” Sarah Eddy and Daniel Grunspan’s study is reviewed in the Atlantic under the title,”XY Bias: How Male Biology Students See Their Female Peers.” The authors also reference experiments showing that faculty members – both men and women – are more likely to “rate (fictional) male applicants as more competent and hirable than identical females ones and to hire a man for a job that requires math.”
I am adding these studies to my pile of studies showing that gender bias is real. In his book “The Hidden Brain,” Shankar Vedantam acknowledges that any individual charge of discrimination meets skepticism. There are so many reasons – other than bias – that a woman can get passed over for promotion, evaluated lower or paid less. He showcases several studies where there is no room for doubt – for example studies showing significantly more positive reactions to a description bearing a male name vs. the identical description labeled with a female name.
There are several studies, including the “Heidi vs Howard” study testing responses to a resume bearing the fictitious name “Howard.” Students in the study concluded that Howard would be an excellent person to have within a company because he was “someone who got things done and was likeable.” The resume actually described the experiences of Heidi; when they reviewed the identical resume with the real (female) name, they judged her to be “more selfish and less desirable” than Howard (though equally effective).
Vedanta reviews studies (which I have written about) involving the experiences of people who have been both male and female. Kristen Schilt, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, interviewed 54 transgendered men — in both professional and blue collar ranks — both before and after they became men. Two-thirds of those interviewed reported “new found authority and competence.” They had greater access to workplace resources and influencers and found they had less need to prove their assertions. One blue collar participant noted that, after he became a man, his job performance ratings improved though he was “not doing anything different” at work. A professional transgendered male found a client had much higher impressions of the exact same work done by him as a male than by his former female self.
The main problem with the kind of bias documented in these studies is for women growing up and trying to do their best work in an environment tainted by it. Engaged employees (who are productive and produce quality work) tend to report feeling valued. In an environment where these unconscious, unseen, insidious forms of bias exist, women have a tougher time feeling valued. Sarah Eddy notes the consequences for women, “Confidence falls, perseverance wanes, and careers die by a thousand cuts.”
Do you know people who still question the existence of gender bias? Share these studies with them. Awareness of our biases is the first step in changing them.