Even when men and women have similar work and achievements, men are more likely to be viewed as creative thinkers, according to a study published in Psychological Science. The study suggests notions of creativity may be closely linked to stereotypes about masculinity.
Men, Women, and Creativity
Researchers conducted several small studies to evaluate the correlation between masculinity stereotypes and subjective notions of creativity. In the first study, which was conducted online, researchers randomly assigned 80 participants to read a passage that either described divergent thinking (sometimes known as “outside the box” thinking) or convergent thinking (commonly known as the ability to “connect the dots”).
After reading the passage, participants completed a survey rating the role of 16 personality traits in creativity. Participants rated stereotypically masculine traits, such as competitiveness and daring, as more closely associated with creativity than stereotypically feminine traits, such as understanding and cooperation.
In a second online study, 169 participants read about either an architect or a fashion designer. Some were told the subject was male, and others were told the subject was female. Then participants looked at his or her work and rated the work in its creativity, originality, and outside-the-box thinking.hypothesized that participants would not favor the male fashion designer as more creative because masculine stereotypes may be more difficult to apply in the field of fashion design. Researchers found no evidence of a gender disparity in the participants’ creativity ratings for the fashion designers.
Researchers then reviewed performance evaluations for senior executives who were also enrolled in master of business administration programs. Thirty-four of the executives were women, and 100 were men. Researchers found male executives were more likely to be called innovative in performance reviews from supervisors. However, direct reports tended to evaluate the same executives as similarly innovative, regardless of gender. This supports previous research findings that suggest those in higher power positions tend to rely on stereotypes when making judgments about others.
In another trial, 125 participants reviewed a passage about either a male or female manager. The passage described the manager’s strategic plan as either more or less risky—a stereotypical masculine trait. Participants who read about a male manager taking risks were more likely to call the manager creative, but the same effect did not occur for female managers who took risks.
Creativity’s Role in Workplace Discrimination
According to the American Association of University Women, women typically earn between 75 and 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. The gender pay gap tends to grow as men and women age, and more education may not solve it. Advice for women in workplaces that may facilitate gender-biased behavior often focuses on assertiveness or asking for a raise. This study’s authors suggest unconscious perceptions of creativity levels in men and women may subtly influence workplace decisions and behaviors, nurturing a climate in which men’s ideas may be more valued.
- Association for Psychological Science. (2015, September 28). Men more likely to be seen as ‘creative thinkers’. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150928123442.htm
- Hill, C., PhD. (2015). The simple truth about the gender pay gap (2015). Retrieved from http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/
- Proudfoot, D., Kay, A. C., and 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 Science. doi:10.1177/0956797615598739
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