Forms of bias

  • Prove-it-again: women generally have to provide more evidence than men to be judged as equally competent.
  • Maternall wall: mmaternity has a negative impact on the assessment of women
  • Tightrope: assertive behaviour of women is often not appreciated
  • Tug-of-war: female evaluators do not always stand up for younger women

Faniko Ellemers Derks

In a study among 800 academics, Naomi Ellemers and her colleagues found that female professors underestimate the career ambitions of their female PhD students. At the same time, they describe themselves as extremely masculine. Fifteen years ago, the researchers observed the same pattern, calling it the Queen Bee effect. Despite the rise of women in academia, female professors still tend to emphasize that they are different from other women. The results of the broader research program show that this is because the picture of academic success is still very masculine, despite the increase in the number of women at university.

For further explanation, see the following article in Forbes here, also covered by Dutch media here, and the scientific article here.

Faniko, K., Ellemers, N., & Derks, B. (2020). The Queen Bee phenomenon in Academia 15 years after: Does it still exist, and if so, why? British Journal of Social Psychology

letmeexplainA series of five studies among both adults and children show that brilliance is automatically more associated with men than women in people's minds. Although people explicitly stated they do not believe that men are more brilliant than women, traits such as genius, brilliant and super-smart were implicitly more consistently linked to men than women. 

For a clear explanation of how the widespread stereotype that brilliance is a characteristic of men holds back the career development of women, see the following article in Forbes here.


Storage, D., Charlesworth, T. E., Banaji, M. R., & Cimpian, A. (2020). Adults and children implicitly associate brilliance with men more than women. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology90,  104020.


Breadwinner Bonus

In the absence of information, men are often seen as breadwinners and women as caregivers. These assumptions have an impact on the employment conditions that are offered and contribute to a pay gap between male and female candidates. However, as soon as explicit information is given about roles and tasks in the family, this difference disappears or even turns around. Read the full article here.

Bear, J. B., & Glick, P. (2017). Breadwinner bonus and caregiver penalty in workplace rewards for men and women. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 8, 780-788.

Phelan et al. Shifting Criteria

When female candidates present themselves as fit for a leadership role (e.g. by demonstrating their competence and ambition), they risk social and economic penalties. Evaluators disadvantage qualified female candidates by modifying the criteria used for judgment away from competence to overemphasize interpersonal skills. For the full article, click here.

Phelan, J. E., Moss-Racusin, C. A., & Rudman, L. A. (2008). Competent yet out in the cold: Shifting criteria for hiring reflect backlash toward agentic women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 406-413.

Eagly Karau. Role Congruity TheorySeveral studies have shown that women have to meet more / higher criteria to be judged as very competent and possessing leadership ability than men. Once women have obtained a position of leadership, their qualifications are rated as less, even if they have performed the same as men. These two forms of prejudice stem from a perceived contradiction between typical female traits (e.g. caring and helpful) and leadership traits (e.g. assertive and independent). For more background information read the entire article here.

Eagly, A. H., & Karau, S. J. (2002). Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders. Psychological Review, 109, 573-598.

Creativiteit wordt met mannelijkheid geassocieerd

Creative thinking is one of the conditions that enables researchers to conduct innovative scientific research and is often seen as a criterium to evaluate the quality of researchers. Based on a serie of five studies, the ability to think creative (‘outside-the-box’) is found to be systematically more associated with men than with women.


Proudfoot, D., Kay, A. C., & Koval, C. Z. (2015). A gender bias in the attribution of creativity: Archival and experimental evidence for the perceived association between masculinity and creative thinking. Psychological Science26(11), 1751-1761.

research report
Leslie, S.-J., Cimpian, A., Meyer, M., & Freeland, E. (2015). Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines. Science347, 262-265.

Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review102, 4-27.