Perceived Gender and Political Persuasion: A Social Media Field Experiment during the 2020 US Democratic Presidential Primary Election. Nature Scientific Reports.

Women have less influence than men in a variety of settings. Does this result from stereotypes that depict women as less capable, or biased interpretations of gender differences in behavior? We present a field experiment that—unbeknownst to the participants—randomized the gender of avatars assigned to Democrats using a social media platform we created to facilitate discussion about the 2020 Primary Election. We find that misrepresenting a man as a woman undermines his influence, but misrepresenting a woman as a man does not increase hers. We demonstrate that men’s higher resistance to being influenced—and gendered word use patterns—both contribute to this outcome. These findings challenge prevailing wisdom that women simply need to behave more like men to overcome gender discrimination and suggest that narrowing the gap will require simultaneous attention to the behavior of people who identify as women and as men.