Changing double standards for women in finance

Objective measurements are sometimes imperfect. When the available data is inadequate to deliver a straightforward pitch, other subjective factors are used to judge performance. Robert Bloomfield, Kristina Rennekamp, Blake Steenhoven, and Scott Stewart argue that evaluators often use categorization as a “shortcut” to interpret performance.

When categorizing people, individuals are assigned to different categories, like gender, and their behavior is judged based on instilled stereotypes. Based on these stereotypes, one may be more harshly judged for an identical performance given by someone that happened to fall under a different category. This concept is well known across different industries. A clique example is the “aggressive” woman being judged more harshly than a man deemed as “confident” for portraying the same behavior.

“Penalties for Unexpected Behavior: Double Standards for Women in Finance” investigated the existence of such phenomena within the financial industry. Experimental scenarios were created to convey whether or not a hypothetical individual demonstrated persistence – a stereotypically male behavior – following a failed stock pitch.

Authors found that while female analysts were criticized for their behavior, males exhibiting the same behavior were not judged as extremely. Semi-structured interviews with investment professionals were conducted to gain further insight into the influence categorization heuristics had on formal work evaluations.

The results highlight how stereotypes continue to add obstacles for women in the male-dominated financial industry and play a major role in promotional decisions. They also offer potential solutions to overcome associations between role and gender characteristics.

Full paper: Bloomfield R., K. Rennekamp, B. Steenhoven, and S. Stewart. 2020. “Penalties for Unexpected Behavior: Double Standards for Women in Finance.” The Accounting Review 96 (2): 107–125.

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