Our biases are largely unconscious and many of us would be mortified if we were more aware of how we employ them.
Below are some examples of experiments that might surprise you. A lot. Implicit bias is everywhere and has been tested extensively.
In one experiment, mothers were asked to guess the steepness of a slope their 11-month old children would be able to crawl down.
The results showed that both boys and girls were able to crawl the same degree of incline. But mothers of girls consistently underestimated their performance and mothers of boys consistently overestimated their performance.
The stereotype at play that boys are more physical likely causes parents to encourage their sons more in physical activities while cautioning their daughters. Boys then are likely to be given more opportunities to be physical than are girls.
While boys do develop stronger physical skills than girls, it's not because of anything innate or biological. It's due, instead, to the gender roles that the parents project, without even knowing it, onto their babies.
This study from Yale demonstrates incredible bias:
Science faculty from research-intensive universities were sent application materials from a student—who was randomly assigned either a male or female name—for a laboratory manager position. These scientists rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. They also recommended that the male applicant be given a higher starting salary and offered him more career mentoring than the female applicant.
Oh...and female scientists were just as likely to underrate the female application. Meaning, both the male and female scientists were biased.
(Now would be an okay time to scream).
I'm sure that most of these scientists would be mortified to learn they had applied biases to these applications based on gender. Like most of us, they probably like to think of themselves as fair and are not covertly sexist. So, how then, can we change our implicit biases?
Getting ahead of implicit bias in our parenting
Because bias is so often unconscious, it's very hard to eliminate it completely. That's why this website exists: to create awareness so we can notice when we're employing destructive biases with our kids.
1. Frequently ask yourself if your response or action may be due to implicit sexism.
2. Allow and encourage your daughters to be physical. Stop telling them to be careful so much.
3. Attend to your sons' feelings and pain. Pick infant boys up when they cry. Look them in the eyes.
4. Introduce your kids to all sorts of toys and activities so they can figure out what they enjoy based on their personalities and innate abilities not because it fits into the false binary of boy or girl. Take note whether you're encouraging gender specific behavior and/or discouraging behavior that is considered appropriate in the "opposite" gender.
5. Increase opportunities for you and your children to know individuals from different groups. When we interact with people with different gender identities, sexual orientations, and from other racial and ethnic groups we can become more aware of and reduce our implicit biases.
For a fun article on implicit bias, check this out:
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
Daisy, Mother to 8 and 12 year old girls
I have become more aware of sexism directed toward me and am very concerned about how it affects or will affect my daughters. Your website gives me a better handle on how to best deal with it. Thank you!!!
Rhonda P. Mom of 3
I have 3 kids under 5 and I have started to see all the ways I might be stereotyping my kids. The last thing I want is to limit them so I plan to revisit this website often.
Dario, Father of Whitney and Oliver
I shared your website with my teenage daughter and she said she feels like she's been trying to tell us all this for years. Thanks for helping us see more clearly what she means when she says we don't have faith in her abilities.