Gender stereotypes are not just descriptive, they are prescriptive. It’s not just how women are, it’s how women are supposed to be. And women who behave out of role are punished for it.
—Susan Fiske, PhD
I have been thinking a lot about what happened to Hillary Clinton. She has her faults – I could certainly list some – but she is more than qualified to be President of the United States. The hostility and mistrust aimed at Hillary Clinton far exceeded any assessment of the actual flaws in her record. This did not surprise me – it fits everything we know about implicit gender bias and selective attention bias and confirmation bias and the Stereotype Content Model and common emotional responses to the specific stereotypes and expectations of career woman. Anyone aware of the research on implicit and explicit gender bias could have predicted it – but it was very painful nevertheless. It opened wounds for me and for many other women.
In honor of these thoughts I am resurrecting a graphic showing how implicit gender bias affects search committees – how women are passed over for leadership roles and advancement in a way that we can easily justify to ourselves. It also shows how this process plays out in a way that makes it very difficult to detect – and to prove discrimination. I could create a very similar graphic for under-represented minority candidates. This graphic is kind in that it assumes that the processes that results in gender discrimination are unconscious and unintended. In many, if not most, cases that is the truth – it is unconscious. However, it makes us extremely easy to manipulate by people with a very conscious agenda and set of beliefs. All they have to do is point out any evidence that it is consistent with our unconscious response and emotions and we fall right in line.
What a terrible loss.