A new study shows that talking about brilliance undermines girls’ confidence. Why is gender bias so difficult to overcome?
Parents, teachers, educators and policy makers generally agree that girls should be taught a “can-do” attitude, so persistent evidence that many girls continue to shy away from certain ambitious goals is puzzling and disturbing. Over the past several years a researcher at Princeton, Sara-Jane Leslie, has measured the extent to which success in an academic subject was seen to rely on raw brilliance (as opposed to hard work), against the number of women and men working in that subject. Leslie found that that the more a field is seen to demand natural born brilliance, the fewer women it has. Hard work, diligence, dedication and even passion seem to count for little when a woman hears the buzzwords “brilliance” or “genius”.