"Who is really really smart? The Development of the Gender Stereotypes about Intellectual Ability"
Currently, women are considerably less likely than men to pursue careers in certain fields, not just those in science and technology but also ones in the humanities (e.g., philosophy). The source of these differences is a matter of great debate. In this talk, I will provide new findings showing that these gender imbalances are partly due to the stereotype associating high intelligence with men more than women. In particular, I will describe a line of research that investigates the acquisition and consequences of this “brilliance = men” stereotype. With respect to acquisition, I will present evidence that, by the age of 6, girls are already less likely than boys to believe that members of their gender are “really, really smart.” Next, I will document two consequences of this stereotype. First, the idea that brilliance is a male trait undermines girls’ interest in activities that are believed to require a high level of intellectual ability. Second, this stereotype gives rise to biases against girls in contexts where brilliance is seen as important. These findings speak to the early acquisition of the cultural beliefs about brilliance and gender, and to the potential role of these stereotyped notions in creating and sustaining gender inequities in career outcomes.