Gender and the Importance of Giving Reasons

Here’s an interesting bit of research that points to the value of the kind of critical thinking that focuses on the offering of reasons.

This is Victoria Brescoll, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior, Yale School of Management, commenting on her research on gender roles:

“We found that if people inferred that a woman had an intention to get power, or if she explicitly said that she was looking for a position of power, they were less likely to vote her into office. But people were more likely to vote for a man when he explicitly expressed or they inferred that he had that intention. 

We think that it’s entirely driven by expectations for how men and women are supposed to act. A strong desire for power on the part of women is very much violating a gender stereotype that women should be modest and play more of a backseat role.
….
When you actually ask people if women should be able to express anger at work, they say it is okay. If you ask people if they would vote for a woman who says she wants power, they’ll say yes, I wouldn’t discriminate. But when we randomly assign people to view one of the scenarios, they will show the bias against the people enacting counter-stereotypical behavior. 

The simplest way that women can express anger while avoiding this bias, at least according to my research, is to offer an explicit reason, so that somebody can’t blame their anger on who they are as a person. It’s not offering an excuse, but a context. This is a great thing for women to do.”

Of course, every critical thinker needs to be aware of the reasons behind his or her opinions, actions, or attitudes. But this suggests an interesting additional reason for emphasizing that.

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