WOMEN
05/08/2013 06:55 pm ET

Women Take Less Credit For Success On Group Projects When Working With A Male Teammate, Study Finds

Alamy

Women are capable of taking full credit for their contributions to a team project -- except if the other team member is a man.

So claims a new study from researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and NYU, the results of which are forthcoming in the July 2013 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Thirty-four men and 36 women, all college-aged, were told that they were working on a task with another study participant and that they would both be responsible for the outcome. Researchers asked each participant to spend 20 minutes completing a task that involved prioritizing and organizing memos and emails and said that their contributions would be merged with their partner's for the final team score. In reality, there was no second participant on the team.

Participants then received feedback they they had scored 71 out of a possible 75 points on the task, labelled as "group feedback" or "individual feedback." When given positive group feedback, women who thought they were working with a male colleague devalued their own contributions and emphasized the other person's success in a questionnaire response.

Follow-up experiments showed that this did not happen when women believed they were working with a female colleague. "This finding is critical because it debunks the notion that what we found is simply a function of women being modest in groups," researcher Michelle Hayes said in a press release. In their paper, the researchers concluded that "unless individual contribution is clear... women do not credit themselves for their accomplishments when working with men."

So Warren Buffet may have had a point when he spoke to students at the University of Nebraska earlier this month. “[Women] have to get like the males and claim credit for way more than they do,” he advised.

A 1996 study found that women who "immodestly" spoke of their accomplishments were seen as much less deserving of their success than men who did the same. Research from 2010 found that women's unwillingness to self-promote could prevent them from being promoted to leadership positions.

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