Gender and race: How overlapping stereotypes affect our personal and professional decisions

December 3, 2012

Racial and gender stereotypes have profound consequences in almost every sector of public life, from job interviews and housing to police stops and prison terms. However, only a few studies have examined whether these different categories overlap in their stereotypes. A new study on the connections between race and gender – a phenomenon called gendered race – reveals unexpected ways in which stereotypes affect our personal and professional decisions.

Within the United States, Asians as an ethnic group are perceived as more feminine in comparison to whites, while blacks are perceived as more masculine, according to new research by Adam Galinsky, the Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Business at Columbia Business School. Further research by Galinsky shows that the fact that race is gendered has profound consequences for interracial marriage, leadership selection, and athletic participation.

The first study conducted by Galinsky and his colleagues Erika Hall of Kellogg School of Management and Amy Cuddy of Harvard University directly tested whether race was gendered. Eighty-five participants of various backgrounds completed an in which they evaluated either the femininity or masculinity of certain traits or attributed those traits to Asians, whites, and blacks. "The stereotype content for blacks was considered to be the most masculine, followed by whites, with Asians being the least masculine," Galinsky wrote in the study, soon to appear in . "Thus, we found a substantial overlap between the contents of racial and ." A separate study, in which participants were subliminally exposed to a word related to race before reacting to words perceived as masculine or feminine, showed that the association between racial and gender stereotypes exists even at an implicit level.

Their next set of studies demonstrated that these associations have important implications for . Within the heterosexual dating market, men tend to prefer women who personify the feminine ideal while women prefer men who embody masculinity. Galinsky showed that men are more attracted to Asian women relative to black women, while women are more attracted to black men relative to Asian men. Even more interesting, the more a man valued the more likely he was attracted to an Asian women and the less likely he was attracted to an black women. The same effect occurred for women, with attraction to driving the differential attraction to black men and Asian men.

These interracial dating preferences have real-world results, Galinsky found. He analyzed the 2000 US Census data and found a similar pattern among interracial marriages: among black-white marriages, 73 percent had a black husband and a white wife, while among Asian-white marriages, 75 percent had a white husband and an Asian wife. An even more pronounced pattern emerged in Asian-black marriages, in which 86 percent had a black husband and an Asian wife.

The effects of gendered races extend to leadership selection and athletic participation, further research showed. In a study in which participants evaluated job candidates, Asians were more likely to be selected for a leadership position that required collaboration and relationship building, traits typically perceived as feminine. Black candidates were more likely to be chosen for positions that required a fiercely competitive approach, typically seen as masculine.

A final study analyzed archival data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Student-Athlete Ethnicity Report, which breaks down the racial composition of 30 different collegiate sports (NCAA, 2010) from 2000-2010 for Divisions I, II, and III. Galinsky and his colleagues found that the more a sport was perceived to be masculine the greater the relative number of black to Asian athletes who played that sport at the collegiate level, with blacks more likely to participate in the most masculine sports.

"This research shows that the intersection of race and gender has important real-world consequences," Galinsky concluded. "Considering the overlap between racial and gender stereotypes – our gendered race perspective – opens up new frontiers for understanding how stereotypes impact the important decisions that drive our most significant outcomes at work and at home."

Explore further: Black-white marriages increased rapidly since 1980, study finds

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