Ideas about what makes a leader may be what continues to keep women down, the study suggests. At a young age, men are often taught to be “confident, assertive and self-promoting,” while women are discouraged away from those traits — the very characteristics we often value in leadership. In contrast, the study says women tend to undersell their achievements. It’s not just this study that says so; the “confidence gap” has been a public discussion for years, with no solution in sight.
Where conditioning ends, stereotyping begins. As adults, women are often thought of as caregivers and as a result are asked to provide a nurturing role in the workplace, even when it’s inappropriate. If a woman becomes a mother, it “triggers powerful negative competence and commitment assumptions” according to a study referenced within Barriers and Bias. Accordingly, after giving birth women can see a 4% decrease in earnings per child. Meanwhile men actually thrive in fatherhood, with an average 6% earnings increase.
Where conditioning ends, stereotyping begins. As adults, women are often thought of as caregivers and as a result are asked to provide a nurturing role in the workplace, even when it’s inappropriate.
But white women and women of color are not equally disadvantaged by stereotypes. The study provides evidence that black women aren’t punished for dominant behavior in the workplace, while Latinas are frequently labeled “emotional” or “angry.” When polled about their behavior, Latinas said they weren’t angry; rather, they didn’t show deference.
These stereotypes and social structures have a major impact, the study says. People who feel they’re being negatively stereotyped can see their performance suffer as a result, further feeding potential stereotypes. They can also experience stress and anxiety, which can negatively impact their workplace demeanor.
Then there is the pesky issue of unconscious bias, those immediate judgments that can taint our perceptions of an individual. “For example, despite finding no evidence of explicit preference for male or female managers, researchers found that male participants implicitly associated positive managerial characteristics (i.e., competent, executive, productive) with men,” the study reports. These hard-to-detect preferences built on a bedrock of stereotypes and social conditions can impact overall workplace decisions, promotions and employee pay.