Study Finds Men and Women Have Bias Against Women’s Intellectual Abilities

A study finds bias against women and girls for activities requiring intellectual ability. The research underscores gender bias held even among females, adults and young children.

In a series of three experiments, researchers found evidence of consistent bias against women and girls in contexts that emphasize intellectual ability. 1,150 people participated in two initial experiments, 350 in the first experiment and 800 in the second were asked to refer individuals for a job. Half of the participants were led to believe the job required brilliance; the other half were not. The results showed participants were less likely to refer a woman when the job description mentioned brilliance. 43.5 percent referred females when brilliance was mentioned while when the trait was not mentioned 50.8 percent referred females. Both women and men were less likely to refer females for these jobs than for the other jobs.

In the third experiment, the researchers tested whether contexts that emphasize intellectual ability elicit gender bias among young children. Researchers taught 192 children, ages 5 to 7, how to play two team games. Researchers told half of the children that the games were for “really, really smart” kids; the others were not told this. Children then selected three teammates from among six children to choose from, three boys and three girls.

Children initially selected teammates of their own gender, with girls choosing girls and boys choosing boys, but in the third round they showed bias against girls, choosing girls as teammates for the “really, really smart” game only 37.6% of the time.

The data and analysis scripts for all experiments are available on the Open Science Framework:



Image adapted from: “Sexist Gender Markers” by Alper Çuğun is licensed under CC BY 2.0