The second barrier, Success ≠ Competence, represents the way that when gender stereotyping is activated, evaluators are less likely to attribute a woman’s success to ability than a man’s success. This is called attributional rationalization, the assumption that men are more competent than women. Stereotyping effects are usually contextually assimilative as men are stereotyped as having some attribute (i.e., men have leadership skills) and are judged to have more of that attribute than women. More specifically, stereotyping may create lower minimum standards for initial hiring screens for women, but higher confirmatory standards for women than men. In other words, women would be more likely to make a short list,yet would be less likely to be hired.
Because of this, when there is ambiguity in performance criteria, evaluations of women’s competence in male sex-typed jobs may be negatively affected (and men’s positively affected). In summarizing a wide range of research on gender and career advancement, Valian notes that as a woman rises into the top tiers of leadership, the mere fact that she is successful leads people to see her as succeeding against expectations, attributing her success to luck, the task being easy, or to working hard, rather than having competence. Women as managers gain status attribution which creates connotations of instrumental competence; however, a woman still be seen as less competent than a male manager with similar characteristics found that women working as part of a mixed-sex dyad received less credit than men even for identical work for stereotypically male tasks, unless their contribution was made explicit to the raters.
For example, have you ever been in a meeting and made a point that no one attached significance to until a male colleague mentioned it five minutes later? If so, you are not alone. Remember, men and women both do this. It’s not just “them.”
- Describe times when you felt less competent than your counterparts. Were there any assumptions possibly made by others that might have triggered this?
- Describe times when you implicitly gave a male more credit than a female (i.e. making a decision based on recommendations of a male versus female physician). Remember, we do it too.