This Is Who Gets to Be Seen as Brilliant

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Think of the smartest people you know, and what kinds of work they get to do. Odds are you know people of all genders whose brains blow you out of the water. Those same odds are often stacked against marginalized genders, including women, within institutions — and we've got the data to back that up.


Psychologists at New York University, the University of Denver, and Harvard University have just published a study about who gets to be seen as brilliant in their careers. It's not as simple as it might sound: Since this kind of implicit bias is widely seen as embarrassing, the researchers had to come up with a way to measure our gaps in perception. They settled on the speed with which study participants identified a person as "brilliant" or "a genius," and found that we are slower overall to assign that category to women.


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"Stereotypes that portray brilliance as a male trait are likely to hold women back across a wide range of prestigious careers," said lead author Daniel Storage.

This effect has been shown before in other research, and even if you're not working in rocket science or moral philosophy, it can create drag on your career trajectory. The way to fix things in your own field (or even your own circles) is simple: Recognize and name those whom you want to elevate. Providing examples and normalizing expectations of diversity are proven ways of supporting marginalized people in any setting. And while that's not the point of the exercise, it might help others spot your own brilliance in the process.