UPDATES Sign up to receive periodic updates from the Mindset Scholars Network.
Despite the numerous intellectual contributions made by women, we find evidence of bias against them in contexts that emphasize intellectual ability. In the first experiment, 347 participants were asked to refer individuals for a job. Approximately half of the participants were led to believe that the job required high-level intellectual ability; the other half were not. A Bayesian mixed-effects logistic regression revealed that the odds of referring a woman were 38.3% lower when the job description mentioned intellectual ability, consistent with the possibility of gender bias. We also found evidence of gender bias in Experiment 2, which was a preregistered direct replication of Experiment 1 with a larger and more diverse sample (811 participants; 44.6% people of color). Experiment 3 provided a developmental investigation of this bias by testing whether young children favor boys over girls in the context of intellectually challenging activities. Five- to 7-year-olds (N = 192) were 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 then selected three teammates from among six unfamiliar children. Children’s initial selections were driven by ingroup bias (i.e., girls chose girls and boys chose boys), but children subsequently showed bias against girls, choosing girls as teammates for the “smart” game only 37.6% of the time (vs. 53.4% for the other game). Bias against women and girls in contexts where brilliance is prized emerges early and is a likely obstacle to their success.