While various organizations are attempting to make strides to understand gender discrimination, a new study based on a series of experiments reveals that there is still a long way to go before the issue of gender bias is completely eradicated. The study revealed that gender bias regarding intellectual ability occurs as early as when children are six years old.
Though national statistics indicate that women and girls match or surpass men and boys in intellectual achievement in the United States, researchers found in their series of three experiments that consistent bias against women and girls concerning their intellectual ability was evident.
"Despite their achievements in the classroom and the workplace, our experiments suggest that women and girls may still encounter bias in circumstances where brilliance is viewed as the key to success," says Andrei Cimpian, the study’s senior author.
In the first two experiments, over 1,000 adults were asked to refer individuals for a job opening. Half of the participants were told that the position in question required a high I.Q., superior reasoning skills, and natural and intelligence while the other half of participants were not. Only 43.5 percent of participants in the first group who were lead to believe that the job would be intellectually rigorous referred a woman for the job. When the job did not mention intellectual ability, 50.8 percent of referrals were for women.
Though women were more likely than men to refer other women to positions that required a high intellectual ability, men and women were both less likely to refer them than they were for the non-intellectual jobs, demonstrating that both genders held similar levels of gender bias.
For the third experiment, researchers taught 192 children who were 5 to 7 years old how to play team games. To mirror the set up of the first studies, researchers told half of the young participants that the games were for “really, really smart” children. The children were then asked to select 3 teammates from a group composed of 3 boys and 3 girls who they had never met.
Before being told that the game required the children to be “really, really smart,” children chose teammates of their own gender, and girls were selected to be teammates 53.4 percent of the time. However, after the children were led to believe that intelligence was a factor to play the game well, girls were only selected to be teammates 37.6 percent of the time.
Though more and more companies are working to promote diversity and inclusion, there is still a lot of work to be done to overcome implicit bias. The stereotype that high-level intellectual ability can be found attributed to men can dissuade women from pursuing careers that require intense intellectual rigor.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.