Men are more likely to be seen as creative, new research suggests

"Gender bias in creativity judgments may affect economic outcomes for men and women" said researchers

Alexandra Sims
Tuesday 29 September 2015 18:30
The work and achievements of men were thought of as more creative than those produced by women
The work and achievements of men were thought of as more creative than those produced by women

Creative thinking is more likely to be associated with masculine qualities - jeopardising women’s positions within creative industries, according to new research.

A study published in Psychological Science suggests the work and achievements of men tend to be thought of as more creative than those produced by women, which could affect salaries received by men and women in the workplace.

In an online study, researchers asked 80 participants to read a passage describing a type of creativity, such as the ability to “think outside the box” or “connect the dots”. They were then asked to rate how central 16 different personality traits are to certain creative types.

Overall, the participants associated creativity with stereotypically male traits including decisiveness, competitiveness, risk-taking, ambition and daring, rather than traits stereotypically linked to women, such as cooperation and understanding.

This tendency was particularly pronounced when creativity was considered “thinking outside the box”.

In a second study, 169 people were asked to read about an architect or a fashion designer. Some were told the professional was male and others female.

The participants then viewed three images of the person’s work and rated the buildings or fashion designs on their creativity, originality and outside-the-box thinking.

The male architect was generally judged as being more creative than the female architect, despite the fact that both designs were identical. There was no evidence of gender difference in the creativity rating for fashion designers.

In a final study, researchers asked 125 people to read a passage about either a male or a female manager whose strategic plan was described as being risky – a masculine trait.

It found the male manager who adopted the risky plan was viewed as more creative than the female manager who created the risky plan.

The male manager who took risks was also seen as having more agency, that is being more adventurous, creative and independent, which boosted perceptions of his creativity.

Increased agency and creativity also led people to view the male manger as more deserving of rewards.

"This result suggests that gender bias in creativity judgments may affect tangible economic outcomes for men and women in the workplace," said the researchers.

"Our research shows that beliefs about what it takes to 'think creatively' overlap substantially with the unique content of male stereotypes, creating systematic bias in the way that men and women's creativity is evaluated," said lead researcher Devon Proudfoot of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

"In suggesting that women are less likely than men to have their creative thinking recognized, our research not only points to a unique reason why women may be passed over for corporate leadership positions, but also suggests why women remain largely absent from elite circles within creative industries."

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