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Do you think you are sexist?

No? Oh ok, then I guess I have nothing to say here. Have a good day.

Just kidding. Maybe you don’t even know you are sexist. It comes out in very subtle ways sometimes. I think this study I will go over today demonstrates what I mean.

When you see a man in a position of power, do you think about how he got there? Do you think your perception of him would change depending on how he got there? If he worked hard would that mean something different than if he lucked his way into the position?

Do different rules apply for women compared to men? Does it matter how a woman got a position, particularly one that is historically done by men?

Well, let’s see.

Let me give 2 separate stories. The first will be from Amelia, who became the best Senior Financial Analyst at Morgan Stanley in 2020. The second is from Margot, who did the same in 2021.

Amelia - 2020

All my life, I had wanted to work for a major company like Morgan Stanley. Every move I made even starting from high school, I planned every class, and made sure that there was a purpose for everything I did. I got this role through careful planning and taking advantage of opportunities to gain more experience in my chosen field. I am so glad I had the opportunity to pursue my goals and work so hard. Now I am a Senior Financial Analyst, a position I have always wanted.

Margot - 2021

You know, I never knew about Morgan Stanley until recently. I honestly ended up with lucky breaks and unexpected incidents. It was really the result of a series of circumstances and I benefited from unexpected events. I was initially placed in what was supposed to be a temporary position of financial analyst. But, as luck would have it, sometimes circumstances lead you in another direction. Now I am a senior financial analyst, a position I never expected to have.

Seeing these two people, what do you think? Is one more hostile? More selfish? Cold? Pushy? Well, whether you personally want to say so, plenty of others have perceived these two as different on these dimensions. Amelia would have been rated as more hostile. Margot would have been rated as more likable. Gross.

This did not happen when participants saw these two stories but with male names instead. Amelia was rated as more hostile compared to all other fictitious stories.

The research itself does not actually say why this happens. It simply states that it does. So, knowing that this is a potential, what do you think? Do you agree? Do you think this effect is real? Have you experienced this in your own life? And WHY do you think this is the case?

I have my own thoughts, but I would rather hear from you.

Perhaps one more question I have is, now that you know this, what will you do? Will it change your thoughts? Will it change your behaviors? Will you speak up if you hear someone disparaging women?

In my next post, I will talk through other considerations when it comes to study and finding. As true as it might be, there are plenty of ways this could change.

Until next time.


Citation: Toneva, Y., Heilman, M. E., & Pierre, G. (2020). Choice or circumstance: When are women penalized for their success?. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 50(11), 651–659.

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