Women and girls are less likely to be seen as fit for smart tasks, the researchers found in the latest study to shed light on gender bias.
Female students do better in school and are more likely to go to university than their male counterparts. However, the most recent study reveals that women are considered intellectually inferior and that such prejudices are present not only in adults of both sexes, but also in children.
Andrei Cimpian, co-author of the research at New York University, said the study showed that people act on stereotypes that they have – helping explain the underrepresentation of women in many fields that require high IQ, including science and technology .
It also provides insight into why gender bias allegations when hiring for jobs are so debated with so much intensity. "What if [the] The referral process is biased, even if the final decision is based on merit, you are still making a decision based on a group of candidates who do not have as many women as they should have given their competence, "said Cimpian.
Writing in the American Psychologist magazine, Cimpian and his colleagues report how they performed an experiment, first with a group of just under 350 participants and then with about 800 people.
Participants were asked to read a job description and then recommend two people they knew to the position. While half of each randomly selected group was given the skills needed for the job as a "consistent effort," the other half received a job description describing the need for brains.
The team found similar patterns for both the smallest and the largest group, with women equally likely to be referred to work, requiring characteristics such as "consistent effort," but less likely than men to be referred, if intelligence was specified.
With the results of the two groups pooled, the team found that women received 43.5% of referrals for "smart" work – with the chance of being sent to a position 25.3% worse than when traits like IQ did not were mentioned. "Both men and women were less likely to recommend a woman for the work of" brilliance "than the" annoying ", Cimpian said.
In another experiment, the team asked 192 children aged five to seven to learn two new games and then choose three teammates from photos of unknown boys and girls. While half of the children were instructed to choose whoever they wanted, the other half were told that the participants needed to be very intelligent.
The results show that in both cases, girls prefer to choose boys and girls to choose boys – but in their third choice, the likelihood of choosing a partner fell when the game was described as being "really smart" children.
Cimpian said the study supported previous work showing that children believe that boys are more talented, but girls do better in school because they work hard. "Children are not born with this idea – we are still in the process of finding out exactly where it comes from," he said, adding that teachers, the media and parents may be involved.
However, the authors admit that there are limitations to the more recent study – including that the scenarios are hypothetical.
Angela Saini, author of Inferior, said that gender stereotypes were absorbed early on. "It's so pernicious that it starts from the second you were born," she said.
Saini said that "genius" can be seen partially as a male trait because the story was taught to involve male figures of the "solitary genius" – who had more opportunities than women to engage in intellectual work and who were often supported by women not concluded.
Dame Athene Donald, professor of experimental physics at Cambridge University, described the widespread prejudice against women as disheartening. "[This study] should be an alert for our society to change our thinking and how we pass those prejudices on our daily lives for the next generation, "she said.