Can a stereotype discriminate?

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Studies have discovered that women are more likely than men to avoid competition in business, whether in groups or as an individual. The reason for this is because of the common stereotype associated with the concept of competition, which is traditionally seen as a mark of masculinity. In business, competition is often associated with an edge or a fuel for productivity, risk and profitability, with men seen as naturally better competitors.

These associations have been instrumental in forming a gender bias when it comes to competitive activities. This bias or stereotype is seen as responsible for possible discrimination against women at work. While there is no direct discrimination at play here, nevertheless, women perceive that they might be discriminated against in areas of competition and so choose not to participate in the competitive process.

The majority of people – including both men and women – are confident to compete when there are defined performance metrics and analytics to guide them, as these metrics help objectify performance and depersonalize competition. Yet without the framework, women tend to close the door on competition because they are made to feel unnatural in this area because of widely held assumptions and stereotypes. For instance, women perform worse than men when they are involved in competition for resources at work.