How gender stereotypes shape group decision-making?

This page is a summary of a study published by The Harvard Business School

Click on the link to access the study:

In this Gender Stereotypes in Deliberation and Team Decisions paper, Research Coffman and colleagues studied how teams discuss, decide on, and reward ideas in a group.

The research team compared the behavior of two groups that had free-form discussions in response to questions that varied in the amount of “maleness” of the topic. 

In one group, the gender of each participant was known, and in the other group, the gender of speakers was not identifiable. 

They found that men and women had the same ability to answer the questions, yet, gender stereotypes warped people’s responses.

As the “maleness” of the question increased, women were significantly less likely than men to self-promote their ideas within the group when their gender was known, particularly in cases where only one woman was talking with a bunch of men. 

But in the groups where gender was unknown, no gender differences were found in terms of how much women and men talked up their ideas or were recognized by others for their input.

The researchers even found that stereotypes seemed to play a role in the way outside evaluators rated the contributions of each group member after reading transcripts of the conversations. 

Without knowing the gender of speakers, these evaluators were significantly more likely to guess that participants who came across in the transcripts as “warm,” or friendly, were female and that a negative or critical participant was male—even though researchers found no actual differences in how men and women in the group communicated. 

Male raters also were significantly less likely to believe that speakers who were judged as “competent” were female. In addition, warmer participants, particularly warmer women, were less likely to be rewarded for their input in the discussions.



Study finds that women are less likely to be rewarded for their ideas in male dominated environment when gender is known, despite having equal ability and communicating in a similar style. 

This is partly due to discrimination by fellow group members, and partly due to differences in the propensity to self-promote (particularly when they are in the minority).

To achieve professional success, people must voice opinions and advocate for their ideas while working in decision-making teams, so it’s a problem if women are staying quiet when it comes to male-typed subjects—and if their ideas are appreciated less when they do express them, Coffman says.

“Our work suggests a need for structuring group decision-making in a way that assures the most talented members both volunteer and are recognized for their contributions, despite gender stereotypes,” the paper says.



Find out whether you have inclination or prejudice for or against gender, click on the button below and answer the questions of the Harvard implicit test.