Brescoll, V. L., Dawson, E. & Uhlmann, E. L.
Psychological Science, 21(11)
Magazine Article
Area of focus: 
Unconscious Bias

This short report describes an experimental research study into unconscious bias in perceptions of leaders in occupations dominated by the opposite gender. The authors asked subjects to rate the status and competence of fictitious leaders of both genders, in both stereotypically male and stereotypically female roles, and in cases where the leader had either made a mistake or had not. They found that subjects rate men and women leaders who have made no mistakes equally highly, regardless of whether they are working a "man's" or "women's" role, but that leaders making mistakes in a stereotype-incongruent role are evaluated significantly less favourably than those making mistakes in stereotype-congruent ones.

The results support the "glass cliff" theory, suggesting that the success and status of leaders in occupations traditionally dominated by the opposite gender is fragile and easily undermined.