An Emphasis on Brilliance Fosters Masculinity-Contest Cultures

Author(s)Andrea C. Vial, Melis Muradoglu, George E. Newman, Andrei Cimpian
JournalPsychological Science
AbstractWomen are underrepresented in fields in which success is believed to require brilliance, but the reasons for this pattern are poorly understood. We investigated perceptions of a “masculinity-contest culture,” an organizational environment of ruthless competition, as a key mechanism whereby a perceived emphasis on brilliance discourages female participation. Across three preregistered correlational and experimental studies involving adult lay participants online (N = 870) and academics from more than 30 disciplines (N = 1,347), we found a positive association between the perception that a field or an organization values brilliance and the perception that this field or organization is characterized by a masculinity-contest culture. This association was particularly strong among women. In turn, perceiving a masculinity-contest culture predicted lower interest and sense of belonging as well as stronger impostor feelings. Experimentally reducing the perception of a masculinity-contest culture eliminated gender gaps in interest and belonging in a brilliance-oriented organization, suggesting possible avenues for intervention.
Keywordsbrilliance, impostor feelings, gender stereotypes, masculinity-contest culture, sense of belonging, open data, open
materials, preregistered
Date Published March 23, 2022
Google Scholar Link,5
Open Access?No

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