A new study published in American Psychologist looks at evidence of bias against women and girls for jobs or activities requiring intellectual ability.
Andrei Cimpian conducted a series of three experiments to test for evidence of gender bias and its developmental roots. In the two initial experiments, more than 1,150 participants were asked to refer individuals for a job. The results showed that participants were less likely to refer a woman when the job description mentioned intellectual ability (43.5% female referrals) than when it did not (50.8%).
In the third experiment, the researchers looked at whether young children favor boys over girls for intellectually challenging activities. Children ages five to seven (n= 192) were recruited from a small mid-western city in the U.S., and taught how to play a team game. Half of the children were told that the game was for “really, really smart” children, the other half were not. Children were then asked to select three teammates from among six children (three boys and three girls) they did not know. The findings were:
- Initially, the children selected teammates of the same gender as themselves (so, girls chose the other girls, and boys chose the other boys).
- However, by the third selection round they became less likely to select girls as teammates for the “smart” game (37.6% girls selected) than for the control game (53.4%).
- Girls were less likely to select other girls as teammates across selection rounds, particularly for the “smart” game.
The authors suggested the findings revealed the early bias against girls and woman in situations that intellectual ability was thought to be an essential quality.