Article image

Women less likely to view themselves as brilliant, study finds

Workplace inequality has been in the news a lot recently – particularly regarding the mistreatment of women in the workplace. Topics such as wage gaps, sexism, and the lack of opportunities for women in certain industries have been discussed and debated at length. Now, new research from New York University has found another disparity between men and women when it comes to applying for jobs.

In a survey, the researchers asked whether the participants would be interested in jobs requiring brilliance or hard work. The results showed that women were significantly less interested in applying for jobs that required “brilliance.” A follow-up survey asked almost 600 people what they thought of these type of job adverts, and found that women were more anxious if a job required brilliance. In general, they felt like they wouldn’t be as good of a fit for this type of job compared to one that only required “dedication.”

The authors write, “Notions of brilliance and genius are stereotypically associated with men, not women. These cultural notions are likely to affect women’s involvement in a variety of professions. In particular, the idea that ‘brilliance=men’ may discourage women from pursuing activities that are believed to require high levels of intellectual ability.”

Follow-up research involving students presented with an internship showed that they also reacted differently to descriptions of the role. The women participants were deterred by requests for an “intellectual firecracker” with a “sharp, penetrating mind,” and instead were more attracted by a role that required someone with “great focus and determination” who “never gives up.”

“In earlier work, we found that girls start to associate ‘smartness’ with boys by the time they are six years old,” says co-author Sarah-Jane Leslie, a professor of philosophy at Princeton University. “These new findings show that the effects of these stereotypes persist over time, continuing to shape women’s educational and career trajectories well into adulthood.”

The research, led by senior author Andrei Cimpian, an associate professor in New York University’s department of psychology, may help us better understand why fewer females enter “STEM” careers (science, technology, engineering, and math) compared to males. Overall, it shows that the psychological make up of women on average leaves them less likely to apply for certain positions that use this type of description of the ideal candidate.

By Connor Ertz, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day