It is more beneficial for a man to downplay the amount of work that went into his ideas, to act as if they just popped into his head. But for a woman, it is more beneficial to explain how much effort went into nurturing her ideas and developing them over time. Researchers in a joint project from Cornell University and Columbia Teachers College recently unveiled these problematic patterns in a series of three studies.
Dr. Elmore and Myra Luna-Lucero, leaders of the studies, set out to discover whether or not these metaphors—an idea popping into one’s head like a lightbulb or an idea growing when nurtured like a seed—carried unintended implications. To do so, they conducted three experiments on 700 men and women in their 30’s. Each participant was shown a variety of pictures of male and female inventors and their respective experiments. Then, they were asked to rank each invention.
The studies’ results showed that inventions were perceived as more extraordinary when described using the lightbulb metaphor, unless the inventor was a woman. Females were more likely to be perceived as extraordinary if they were nurtured over time.
Big ideas take hard work and development, but according to these studies, a widespread systemic myth suggests the ability to do something is completely hereditary or innate, and pure genius comes about only in ‘eureka moments.’ Further, these studies reveal that a man will receive more positive attention if he downplays the amount of effort that went into his work, whereas it benefits a woman to show exactly how much work went into hers.
So what important implications does this study offer? Rewording how we talk about men, women, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and math fields who feel they don’t belong could empower many to get involved. It’s not that some people don’t belong in these fields; rather it’s that some people need to work harder to be treated like they do.
[Source: The New York Times]