London Business School Review: Stereotyping: The Universal Performance Killer by Aneeta Ratton

An interesting article about gender stereotyping that can be equally applied to many groups – those based on age, religion, ethnicity not just gender.

The principle, based on a study by Claude Steele, a social psychologist and Provost, is that when a stereotype is present, everyone can be negatively impacted by it. He called it ‘stereotype threat’. “When someone’s social identity is attached to a negative stereotype, people will tend to underperform in a manner consistent with it.” It’s believed that the underperformance is caused by that person being worried that others will see them as the stereotype and judge them negatively for it. Funnily, research showed that people thought they’d perform better as they’d be more motivated, not true.

There can be negative stereotypes about women in business or leadership. I have heard comments about female leaders such as: too soft, not confident, not driven, unfocused, more dedicated to home not work, bitchy, bossy.  If these stereotypes are present, women might perform worse as they are anxious about being judged against them.

Aneeta Ratton, an Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School and her colleagues, say that leaders can counter this effect by focusing on a Growth Mindset. The idea that people continually grow, develop and learn. This sounds like a great mindset for a company no matter what.