Last March, tucked along side half a dozen articles about social enterprises, development in the Global South, and the tech industry in my email, was the headline “Better If It’s Man Made.”
Three Stanford researchers—Shelley J. Correll, Sarah A. Soule, and Elise Tak—discovered through their study that gender stereotyping significantly impacts the way we evaluate products. In traditionally male-oriented markets—beers, power tools, or outdoor equipment, for instance—goods made by women can stack up pretty negatively.
“Our research suggests that customers don’t value and are less inclined to buy traditionally male products if they think they’ve been manufactured by women,” says Soule. “There’s an assumption that your woman-made craft beer, screwdriver, or roof rack just won’t be as good.”
Or your skis and snowboards.
This study validated what we’ve been feeling for years, but you know that women’s feelings don’t mean shit. We just thought we were over sensitive (another thing society teaches us), so we moved on. But there’s always been this nagging feeling that we were up against something that we couldn’t control. Despite this, I am grateful for this research because 1) I feel validated and 2) Now we data to work with. Imagine what the world would be like if there was research that corroborated every ounce of our intuition?
I was so moved by this research from that I wrote an article for SNEWS called “Women Make Cupcakes. Men Make Beer and Gear.” You can read the entire thing here (please and thank you), but here are few snippets:
Consider this: According to a March 2019 survey by Thumbtack that gathered data from over 900 women in the U.S., 48 percent of female small business owners in male-dominated industries report that their expertise has been questioned because of their gender, where only 5 percent of men say the same. That number is even higher for black women at 58 percent.
There is a certain amount of gaslighting that women in the outdoor industry face, and entrepreneurs new to the scene, like me, aren’t the only ones who experience it. Brook Hopper, global marketing manager at Liv Cycling, said “I constantly find myself having to rationalize my existence. People say that you don’t need to have a bike company specific for women…But when I was at The North Face no one was ever asking why we were making women’s products.”
Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, Founding Partner of The Avarna Group, a consulting firm that provides insights and resources on equity, diversity, and inclusion for organizations, said that she has even seen people who are well-versed in social justice issues not recognize their own bias. Unconscious bias is just that – unconscious. And that is the problem: Bias does not present itself as blatant acts of sexism or aggression, she said; it’s unconscious and it shows up everywhere in subtle interactions.
Today I’m tasking you with this: Consider in what ways hidden bias impacts your decision making, your actions, and your words. Here’s a helpful article from Teaching Tolerance to learn more about hidden bias and what you can do about unconscious stereotypes and prejudices.