The fascinating bit here is how easy it is for us to fool ourselves into thinking we’re doing “x”, when in reality we are doing “y”. In this study, all that was required to mirror the bias in our society against women was for a company to have a policy of meritocracy in place. Under the aegis of this policy people in the study tuned out their thoughts and considerations for actual fairness and stopped appraising their actions.

      “When it came time to divvy up $1,000 in bonus money, there was a stark divide between participants in the meritocracy and non-meritocracy conditions. When the fictional company stressed fairness and individual performance, subjects gave men about 12 percent more than equally qualified women on average. When it didn’t mention a focus on merit, there was no significant difference between the bonus for men and women.

     Though the experiment didn’t provide specific insights into the reasons for the different results, based on previous academic work, Castilla and Benard suggest that the variance might have to do with the participants’ confidence in their own judgement. In agreeing with the company’s meritocratic principles, they might have bolstered their sense of their own objectivity or felt they had established their “moral credentials” as non-prejudiced people.

     “An organizational culture that prides itself on meritocracy may encourage bias by convincing managers that they themselves are unbiased, which in turn may discourage them from closely examining their own behaviors for signs of prejudice,” Castilla and Benard write.”

And there be the one of the problems with existing within a society that has normalized patriarchal standards.  It is so very easy to forget that the very societal air we breathe comes with a implicit set of normative attitudes that, when not consciously opposed, take over.  This is why not conforming to patriarchal expectations is tiring because feminists know that the ‘autopilot’ is complete trash and must always be on manual control.

[Source:JSTOR]

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