THE BLOG
07/21/2014 02:37 pm ET Updated Sep 20, 2014

Women's Bias Against Women

Valerie Loiseleux via Getty Images

When women rate their reasons for success, luck is involved.

In research on gender stereotypes, men and women were asked to choose between ability and luck for the successful accomplishment of historically male and female jobs.

Here's how the research broke down:

Both men and women attributed a man's success on historically male or historically female tasks to ability.

In addition, both sexes attributed a woman's success on historically female tasks to ability.

The Kicker.

Men and women attributed a woman's success on historically male tasks to luck... that's right, LUCK!

The notion of gender bias by men against women is not new. And as any forensic gender bias observer would point out, when it comes to gender bias, men are the usual suspects, and guilty more often than not.

However, the notion of gender bias in women against women in certain situations may not be something we normally think about.

How it Works.

Very few of us are born and raised in such a fishbowl as not to adopt the prevailing values and attitudes (biases) of our predominant cultures. We develop through relationship with our environment. Attitudes, feelings and behaviors are passed on multi-generationally through families and friends, and re-branded through art, theater, film, books and of course, the Internet.

In this scenario, women are operating under the same cognitively distorted cloud as men, and ascribe similar stereotypes to competence or accomplishment. It may play out much like the women can't do math myth, propagated by teachers and students, men and women alike, destined to become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

In short, men and women become culturally hardwired for certain biases, and that wiring can be a hard thing to undo, especially regarding societal or even global beliefs that have been in place for a millennium.

That's a lot of History to Overcome

Woman have spent forever on the bottom rung of the ladder. It has only been in the last 75-100 years here in America that women have been able to begin to claim their power. That may seem like long enough for attitudes to change, but anthropologically speaking, it is just a fly-speck in time. We may still be working on breaking the chain of outdated attitudes and substituting healthier notions in our collective consciousness. Just evidence the fact that only lately are we seriously considering a female president, and you get some idea of how our notions of gender competence are still evolving.

An Optimist's Tale

So yes, women and men may still exhibit bias against a woman's access to power or recognition of accomplishment for historically male roles, but the simple fact that small stories like this are out there, pebbles on the path towards larger voices calling for egalitarian measures of competence and ability, leave no doubt that we are on the right road.

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