Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Prejudice?


Pande, Rohini, Lori Beaman, Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, Esther Duflo, and Petia Topalova. 2008. “Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Prejudice?”. Copy at http://www.tinyurl.com/y5ybnghw

Date Published:

Feb 1, 2008


Female leadership remains strikingly low in most democracies, and voter preferences are often suggested as a likely explanation. In this paper, we present experimental evidence from India which suggests that, on average, villagers, especially men, are prejudiced against female leaders. For example, men rate a hypothetical leadership speech more negatively when the speaker's voice is experimentally manipulated to be female, rather than male. However, randomly assigned exposure to a female leader (due to mandated political representation for women) reduces such prejudice by 50-100% depending on the measure. We also provide suggestive evidence that prejudice influences perceptions of actual performance. Despite outperforming their male counterparts on many dimensions of performance, first time women leaders receive worse evaluations. Consistent with our experimental evidence that exposure reduces prejudice, second time female leaders are rated at par with male leaders.


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