In the year 2017, we’ve seen an increasing amount of women who are successful in the top levels of their profession. Yet, when a woman is successful she’s much less likely to mention her success than a man. But how do women downplay their success?
One way this is shown is through uptalk, or when one raises the intonation of their voice towards the end of a sentence. Uptalk is often used by an individual who is unsure of themselves.
A study conducted among contestants on Jeopardy showed that women contestants were 37 percent more likely to use uptalk than their male counterparts. The most interesting gender divide in uptalk among occurred specifically when a contestant used uptalk. Women often used uptalk when they were correct, while men used uptalk when they were wrong.
This is nothing new.
Most women have felt lesser than men for the majority of their lives. In fact, a recent study has found that by the age of six most girls do not feel as smart as boys. In the study, the researchers had told young children stories about other children who were smart and then were asked what gender they believed the protagonist to be.
The children in the study who were five, typically identified the protagonist to be their own gender. What is interesting is that, at age six, the girls in the study began to identify the protagonist to be boys.
The study concluded that even at the young age of six, children begin to succumb to the stereotypes of their gender. Girls begin to become much more aware of these socially constructed norms, and begin to believe that they are true.
At age six, it’s difficult for girls to differentiate stereotype from fact. Therefore, many young girls begin to develop a mindset which leads them to believe that they cannot achieve at the same levels as men.
Additionally, the study had found that around the age of six, young girls began to avoid activities that were meant for children that were “really, really smart” such as activities related around science and math. This further suggests the notion that gendered concepts of intelligence have an immediate effect on a child’s interests, which can be seen later on in life.
So where are young girls learning these stereotypes?
We live in a culture which is subconsciously tells women that they cannot achieve at the same levels as men. One root to this problem can be determined simply by looking at the words which we use to describe women vs men. Most young girls are often described as pretty, or cute rather than smart, or strong.
Just from looking at headlines in the media, successful women are often described as bossy or ambitious rather than successful. These inherent biases which many women are subjected to also lead to the amount of women who downplay their success.