Female candidates running for office face bias at the ballot box, according to new research. Voters tend not to think of them as leaders - and in order to earn a vote, women have to be more qualified than their male rivals.
"In following instructions to sort images (of male and female leaders) rapidly, the mind often balked at accepting a woman as a leader," said lead researcher Cecilia Mo in a release. "The average person found it easier to pair words like ‘president' and ‘executive' with male names and pictures and words like ‘assistant' and ‘aide' with female names."
For the study, roughly 400 Floridians were evaluated for implicit gender biases. Then with that knowledge in hand, Mo asked the participants how they would vote in various two-party race scenarios.
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"The more difficulty a person had in classifying a woman as a leader, the less likely the person was to vote for a woman," Mo said. "Even when I consider only those who explicitly say that they would support a female candidate, I found that if they have difficulty associating women with leadership attributes, they are less likely to vote for a woman in a noticeable way."
But this ‘hidden tax' paid by female candidates can be overcome with knowledge. When voters had more information about qualification differences between candidates, they were more likely to vote for the more qualified candidate regardless of gender.
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Gender isn't the only bias that candidates face, of course. Contenders of both sexes wrestle with voter prejudice about weight. Remember Chris Christie's weight loss surgery? Some have speculated that it was motivated by presidential aspirations.
Looks matter, too, and may be especially - and unfairly - applied to women. Though with Donald Trump's hair having virtually its own identity this election cycle, that may be changing.