Updated: Mar 25
[00:00:00] Section: Podcast introduction
[00:00:00] Overdub: Hello, welcome to The Story of Woman, the podcast exploring what a man-made world looks like when we see it through her eyes. Woman's perspective is missing from our understanding of the world. This podcast is on a mission to change that. I’m your host, Anna Stoecklein Lau and each episode I'll be speaking with an author about the implications of her absence - how we got here, what still needs to be changed, and how telling her story will improve everyone's next chapter.
[00:00:34] Section: Episode level introduction
[00:00:35] Anna: Hello friends. Welcome. Welcome to the first episode of The Story of Woman. What an exciting moment this is. Thank you so much for being here. We are starting off with one of the most pervasive female experiences that is out there. One that is not limited to any culture or country or even level of influence and power. We are talking about mansplaining. Not just mansplaining, but the entire phenomenon that causes mansplaining and many other similar... irritants.
Female identifying listeners. Have you been explained to, interrupted or talked over by a man in meetings recently? Have you wondered why a less qualified guy got the job and you didn't have you bit your tongue as your male counterpart gets addressed before, or instead of you? Have you been called a girl when you are in fact an adult woman? Well, you are not alone and it may come down to what I am speaking with my guest today about: the authority gap, which has been deemed the mother of all gender gaps.
For one, because of how pervasive it is. Seriously, the most authoritative women in the world experience it. My guest today has interviewed Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Jacin da Arden, Mary McAleese, Janet Yellen. All women, you would think perhaps might have earned the right to not be mansplained too, but as we will see, no one is immune, not even these world leaders.
And it's also the mother of all gender gaps, because these aren't just irritants, but have serious implications for women and men and society as a whole. As long as it exists, the gap between women and men in the public sphere, won't disappear.
But not to despair. It doesn't have to be this way. And there are many things that we can do about it, which we will be getting into today. My guest today is Mary Ann Sieghart who I could spend 20 minutes credentialing. In addition to being the author of The Authority Gap, she is a journalist non-executive director and broadcaster. She has spent 20 years as assistant editor and columnist at The Times. She makes programs for BBC Radio Four and is a visiting professor at King's College London.
She is a non-executive director of the Guardian Media Group and Chair of the investment committee of The Scott Trust and is currently on the chair of judges for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2022.
She has extensive experience in political, economic, and feminist journalism working for organizations such as the Independent, the Economist, the Today newspaper, the Financial Times, and so, so much more. She also has extensive TV and radio experience and has sat on numerous boards, including for the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Social Studies Faculty of Oxford University, Women in Journalism and many more. Like I said, I could spend 20 minutes credentialing her. And as we will soon learn even she is not safe from the authority gap.
One thing I do want to point out in our conversation today, we only touch the surface of the fact that this problem is exponentially worse for marginalized groups, especially women of color and women with disabilities. So that is one thing to keep in mind through it all. And also just as, this is not a man bashing podcast, this is not a man bashing book, far from it. There is an entire chapter dedicated to everything men stand to gain by eliminating the authority gap. And as we will see this unconscious bias that perpetuates the gap is something that both men and women have. So if you're a man, I applaud you. And I thank you for being here. As we will hear from Mary Ann and the data-driven research to back it up, you are rare just for showing up here today.
And final thing. The three quotes you will hear read during the interview are taken directly from the book, The Authority Gap, and you will also hear a few recurring sections that appear in every episode. Learn more about those and the story of woman introduction episode, if you haven't listened to that yet. But for now sit back and enjoy. And if you like what you hear, feel free to share far and wide, because the only way to start chipping away at this gap is for more people to become aware of it.
All right. And now for the story of woman and authority.
[00:05:10] Section: A word from this episode's supporter
[00:05:12] Anna: But first, a quick word from this episode's supporter: Elect Her. Elect Her is a non-partisan organization which inspires, encourages and supports women to run for political office in the UK. They help women entering politics, break down barriers by demystifying the process through workshops, events, and peer support.
33% of elected representatives in the UK are women. Although women make up 51% of the population. Elect Her is committed to improving the equal representation of all women and deliver events for specific communities, such as women of color, women with disabilities, or women in rural locations. Through their tiered workshop series and support focused on getting started, getting involved and getting ready to stand for election, Elect Her can equip you with knowledge, confidence, and skills for entering politics in the UK, whilst introducing you to a supportive community of women on the same journey.
And as we will shortly here, the journey for women is not easy, but we need women more than ever. Find out more at elect-her.org.uk, or from the link in the show notes. And on the Story of Woman website.
[00:06:23] Section: Episode interview
[00:06:24] Anna: Hi, Mary Ann, welcome, thank you so much for being here.
[00:06:28] Mary Ann: Oh, thank you for asking me.
[00:06:29] Anna: I am very excited to speak with you today about your book, The Authority Gap. This book has completely changed the way that I see the world. It was a very, very enjoyable read, but at the same time, I must confess that I did also yell at the book quite a lot while I was reading it.
[00:06:49] Mary Ann: My publisher, when she read the first draft, she said she found it enraging and inspiring in equal measure. I thought that'll do.
[00:06:59] Anna: Absolutely. I was going to say, I, you know, I think that I was feeling very hopeful by the end. It really does take you on a journey, not just of anger and disbelief, but where we can realistically go from here. So I want to start just by having you explain to us what exactly is the authority gap and what are some ways we see it play out in our day to day lives?
[00:07:23] Mary Ann: Sure, the authority gap is a measure of how much more seriously we take men than women. So we're just more reluctant to accord authority to women than we are to men. And I mean, it, in terms of authority as expertise, in other words, thinking that a woman is as competent and as knowledgeable and as experienced and as expert as a man and also authority in terms of leadership, we feel much less comfortable having women in charge than we do men.
And so perhaps to sum it up in layman's terms, we assume a man knows what he's talking about until he proves otherwise. Whereas for a woman it's all too often, the other way round.
[00:08:00] Anna: Incompetent until proven otherwise. And as you pointed out in your book, that also means sometimes we mistake confidence for competence, or believe you may have called that bullshit in the book.
[00:08:13] Mary Ann: Yeah, well, I mean, I hope we're going to talk about confidence because it is very different from competence. yet we do far too often mistake the two.
[00:08:22] Anna: Yeah, absolutely. Well, yeah. I would like to talk a little bit about, how do we see this play out in our day-to-day lives and we'll get into some specific examples, but yeah, if you can kind of set that framework?
[00:08:33] Mary Ann: So the main symptoms of the authority gap are that we're much more likely to underestimate women. We tend to patronize them. We tend to interrupt them when they're talking much more than men, we tend to challenge their expertise. We tend to be more reluctant to be influenced by them in conversation or in work meetings.
And we're more resistant to them wielding authority over us. So these are the ways in which the authority gap manifests itself. And then of course there's all sorts of backlash to women's authority. So I do a very depressing chapter in the book about, you know, trolling and death and rape threats and all the horrible things that women have to put up with if they do start to exert any.
[00:09:17] Anna: Yes, very depressing, indeed. you say that this gap affects women all over the world? No matter the culture is that right?
[00:09:25] Mary Ann: It affects women all over the world. affects women of color, even more than white women. It affects disabled women even more than women. So all these other into sex and, you know, compound the problem.
[00:09:39] Anna: Absolutely. And you call the authority gap, the mother of all gender gaps. So why is it so crucial that we address it? You know, other than it being a very irritating experience? Why does it matter that women are constantly being interrupted and taken less seriously?
[00:09:56] Mary Ann: Because it is a symptom of men thinking that they are superior to women. That's why, and that's why it's a mother of all gender gaps. Because if we're not going to take women as seriously as men, we're not going to hire them as readily, promote them as fast or pay them as much. So all the other gaps that we see, or as a result our default assumption, being that men are basically better than women.
[00:10:20] Anna: Yeah, you pointed out in the book, I liked this point that you made that, you know, the authority gap and not taking women as seriously, it's why rape is still under reported and under prosecuted, it's why domestic violence was for so long ignored by the police, it's why childcare didn't become a political issue until there was a critical mass of females in government. And it's why have been allowed to get away with sexual harassment for so long. So exactly, as you just said, and as you beautifully lay out in the book, you know, as long as this exists, there's going to be a gap between women and men in the public sphere.
[00:10:52] Mary Ann: And it's also why women's health issues aren't taken as seriously as men's, why so many drugs aren't even tested on women, even though their bodies react differently, you know, it takes years for a diagnosis of endometriosis to be made in women because they are assumed just to be being hysterical.
[00:11:10] Anna: Yeah, yes. I've spoken to Elinor Cleghorn about her book, Unwell Women, on this podcast and we get into that and a lot of depth and yeah, there's some serious repercussions in pretty much every aspect of the world that seems because of this problem. So, I want to talk about how this has come to be and what perpetuates it and then of course what we can do about it, but first I want to talk through some more examples of how we see this play out in the real world, because you carried out really extensive research and spoke with really powerful women that most of us would consider to be very authoritative people. can you tell us about the work that went into researching and writing this book and why you chose to include women in these high up positions of power?
[00:11:54] Mary Ann: Yeah. So there were two strands of my research. One was, as you say, interviewing individual women, and about half of them, about 40 or 50 of them were extraordinarily or authoritative and powerful women, you know, former Presidents and Prime Ministers and Supreme court judges. Film directors, sorry, movie directors and or Castro, conductors, Bishops, uh, army generals.
You name it. The other half are women who weren't so eminent, but I deliberately interviewed the very eminent women because I thought if even they have come across the sort of authority gap in their lives, then I think that's pretty good proof that it happens to all of us, if even that level of power and authority can't insulate you from it, then it happens to all womankind. And the other strand of the research I did was a huge amount of research into academic research studies, and other studies in other fields proving the existence of the authority gap in the first place, because I wanted it to be absolutely watertight.
But I did hear some eye watering stories with some of my interviewees. So for instance, I think one of the most shocking ones was from Mary McAleese, the President of Ireland, and she led a delegation to the Vatican to meet the Pope. So it was a huge state visit, incredibly formal occasion. She leads her delegation into the audience room. In comes the Pope flanked by his Cardinals. She is at the head of the delegation waiting to be introduced to him. And instead he walked straight past her, sticks out his hand to her husband instead and says, "Wouldn't you prefer to be President of Ireland rather than merit to the President of Ireland?"
[00:13:32] Anna: Oh, my God.
[00:13:33] Mary Ann: The delegation was stunned, as you can imagine. I mean, it was such a breach of protocol, a part from anything else, as well as being incredibly rude. So her husband knew better than to take the Pope's hand. So Mary McAleese told me, she said I grabbed his hand, which was hovering in midair, pulled it back to me and said, "Let me introduce myself. I am the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, elected by the people of Ireland, whether you like it, whether you don't."
And, he said afterwards, "Oh, I was just making a joke. I heard you had a sense of humor." I mean, how often have you been told by a man "Oh, I was just making a joke having on haven't you got a sense of humor." She said I do have a sense of humor, but that really wasn't funny. You would not have done that to a male president.
[00:14:18] Anna: Right? That is just the classic kind of joking or gaslighting, you know, you're misconstruing what I'm saying, a kind of response. And yeah, I never would have said that to a male president, to the wife. "Do you you were, instead of your husband?" Yeah, that was, that was a shocking story. The way I'm Janet Yellen prepares so rigorously.
[00:14:43] Mary Ann: Oh yes. She is so conscientious and this she says is in order to boost her own confidence. And she prepares so rigorously that she actually writes at the top of her speeches, "Hello, my name is Janet Yellen," which I thought was actually really quite endearing.
[00:15:02] Anna: Yeah. So, you know, it makes, it makes me feel like, if she's experiencing this, yeah. It's no wonder that, that I experience this myself...
[00:15:12] Mary Ann: exactly. I mean, women just have to work so much harder because failure is treated much more harshly in women than it is in men. So we just cannot afford to let a crack show. You know, we don't go along to a board meeting not having read the papers. We don't try and blag our way through the job interview the way a lot of men do, because we simply can't afford to do it.
And the other problem is that if one woman fails at something, it's taken as a sign that no women could ever be any good at it. Now this is never the case for a man is it? think he wasn't any good, but you don't think, oh, well that just shows men are useless at this. But I, I heard great story from a British cabinet minister, Amber Rudd, and when our then Prime Minister Theresa May was in difficulties and it was still that there might be a leadership election that her party might topple her, a male colleague of Amber Rudd came up to her and said, "Oh, Amber, just so you know, I just wanted to say, if there's a leadership contest, I'd really like to back you." And she thought, well, that's great. And then he said, "But I think we've had enough women for now."
[00:16:15] Anna: Oh, no, like she, yeah, tick. We've done one. So we're good for another decade.
[00:16:22] Mary Ann: Yeah. And also, so therefore half the population can be ruled out from contention because someone who shared their gender was bad at it.
[00:16:29] Anna: Oh Lord. But of course it doesn't go the other way when we see wonderful leaders like Jacinda Arden and Angela Merkel, we're not saying, oh yeah, we should elect more women because look how well they do, it only goes the one way.
[00:16:40] Mary Ann: Yeah. Well, some of us are thinking that.
[00:16:41] Anna: Yeah. Some of us, the ones who aren't saying, "okay one woman a decade."
[00:16:47] Mary Ann: Yeah.
[00:16:48] Anna: So I want to talk about your experience as well, because you started your career in a very male dominated profession of journalism back in the 1980s. So I'm curious to know, you know, what was that experience for you and how do you experience the authority gap now compared to then?
[00:17:05] Mary Ann: Yes. I joined The Times of London as Americans called it, but it's just known as The Times here very young in quite a senior position as the op-ed editor, when I was 28, I think 27 actually. So I was very lucky, I'd been promoted very fast all the way through my career. So I don't think being female hurt me. On the other hand, how can I put this...
...well I'd had quite stellar academic results, put it like that. So that sort of, that sort of really gave me a leg up. But I found myself as one of only two women out of 22 in morning and afternoon conference, which is when the papers put together each day, so it was a very, very male environment.
And if Bridget, the features editor was away, I was the only woman with all these men around the table. And you could smell the testosterone in the air, you know, they were very competitive, full of bullshit, always wanted to prove they knew more than anybody else. And I remember thinking I've got two options here. I can either play the sort of demure woman and then I will be completely rolled over and no one will take me seriously at all, or I can behave as confidently as they do. Which is what I chose to do. But I got punished for it as all confident women do because the trouble with being as confident as a man, which is what you have to be in order be treated equally and to be taken as seriously as they are, is that it almost instantly makes you dislikable. People recoil from it. So it's no, you seem to, women are just lean in, just man up, go on an assertiveness training course it doesn't always help. And I was quite quickly parodied in Private Eye, which is the satirical magazine over here as Mary Ann Big Head...
[00:18:53] Anna: O my god.
[00:18:54] Mary Ann: ...you know, it could have been women know your place. Right? I really wasn't. I mean, I was no more big headed, I think probably quite a lot less than most of my male colleagues, but they couldn't bear it. that I behaved as if I had as much right to be in the room as they did.
[00:19:07] Anna: And you talk about that quite a lot through the book, this double bind, why can't women just be more confident, be more assertive? But if you do these things, you have to constantly be walking on this balance beam, making sure you're not too much of one thing or too little of another. And what about in your career now? How have things kind of changed for you? You know, are you coming across it in the same way? Has it gotten better? Can you, can you talk to us about that?
[00:19:38] Mary Ann: I think it has got better as I've got older. And I think that's the case for most women. I mean, I'm not 60, so it's a lot easier for me now. And I think being post-menopausal makes you braver as well so I might be more inclined to call it out now than I used to be. So I find it only happens to me when somebody doesn't know what I do.
And then immediately it's like the elastics snapping back to its default place. So I'll give you an example. This was just pre pandemic. So I suppose a couple of years ago, and I was at quite high level international conference and I was talking to the former British Head of the Foreign Office, which is like the Head of the State Department. So very senior man and a BBC foreign correspondent. And we were having a good gossip outside the, you know, the conference hall. And I would concede that those two men know far more about foreign affairs than I do, but I think I probably have the edge in British politics because I've been a about British politics in The Times and The Independent for about 25 years. that was my special ty. And this other delegate up, doesn't know any of us, completely ignores me, at the two men and says, can I ask you a question about British politics? Could Tony Blair ever make a comeback? So I say, "Not a chance," and start explaining why. This man cannot even bear to turn and look at me as I'm explaining it. And then when I finished explaining why he can't make he come back, he asks a follow-up question of the two men.
[00:21:08] Anna: Oh, my God
[00:21:10] Mary Ann: And I actually touched him on the arm. So he had to turn and face me. And I said, look I'm actually the British political columnist in this group. I do know what I'm talking about.
[00:21:19] Anna: Did that then work? You had to credential yourself. That's a part of it...
[00:21:23] Mary Ann: I have credential myself and even then he was sort of reluctant. And the next day I said, "Oh, I'm so grateful to you." And he said, "Oh really why?" And I said, "Well, you've given me a fantastic case study for this book I'm writing." Oh, he said and pleased with himself and said, "Why?" And I explained it all. And he said, "Oh, I didn't do that." And I said, "Well you did actually." And he said, "Well it's just, cause I didn't know who you were."
[00:21:47] Anna: Exactly.
[00:21:48] Mary Ann: And said, "You didn't know who the men were either. You just assumed they knew more than I did."
[00:21:53] Anna: Yeah, that is exactly the point, you needed the evidence, you were assumed in competent until proven otherwise. That is exactly the point. And you told another extraordinary story in the book about the times when you were telling men about the idea for this book...
[00:22:11] Mary Ann: Oh, yes. So, you know, I found about a third of the men I've spoken to, who've been delightful and interested and asked intelligent questions about it, as you or I would, if we were talking to someone else who was writing a book. But, the rest who are about two thirds of the men, about third of them, would simply tell me I was wrong, that my thesis was out of date and that, uh, there was no problem with women these days, if anything, women are being appointed to all the top jobs. Right. Which is sort of as insensitive as telling a person of color that racism doesn't exist. Right? Um, and the other half would start mansplaining to me what ought to be in my book.
"Well, of course the important thing to realize," they would say to me, "is it's all evolutionary determined," or something like that. I know we'd look at these two classes of men and think, are you so unselfaware that you don't realize that you are acting in exactly the same. I mean, you, you actually acting out my book, right? This is what I'm writing about. You are assuming, you know, more than I do about a subject that I've spent the past three years researching, and you were talking from a position of complete ignorance.
[00:23:21] Anna: Yeah, you're literally writing a book about how society doesn't believe or accord women with authority and they respond by doubting your authority. I mean, it's phenomenal. You can't make this up.
[00:23:35] Mary Ann: Exactly. And once this happens, when a man in the first category, one of the delightful man was sitting opposite me and his jaw was still dropping further and further to the floor. And he said, "I can't believe you didn't just, you know, bust a gasket." I said, "I'm just so used to it.
[00:23:52] Anna: this is This the book.
[00:23:55] Mary Ann: Yeah.
[00:23:56] Book excerpt: “the problem is that the world around us is still designed and led mainly by men. Most of us have grown up with our fathers working more and earning more than our mothers. We see, in all walks of public life, men making it more often to the top, and men being cited as authorities much more often than women. We have watched too many films in which men are the protagonists and women the helpmeets or sex objects, in which men have twice as many speaking parts, almost all of which are directed by men. We still live in a world in which men have the upper hand and help each other up the ladder, so no wonder we have internalised the notion that women must somehow be inferior and worthy of less respect.”
[00:24:50] Anna: You dedicated a chapter to looking at the experiences of transgender people, because of course they are in a very unique position. Having lived as both genders. Could you tell us about some of the findings there?
[00:25:03] Mary Ann: Do you know, I found this so fascinating. It was just brilliant because generally, suppose you and a male colleague at the same level are both up for promotion and he gets it and you don't. And you might sort of have the suspicion that may be bias was at the root of it, but it's terribly hard to prove.
Maybe he's just better than you, genuinely better than you, and how can you tell? And the great thing about the experience of trans people. Is it, you are controlling for every variable apart from the one that matters and you're isolating that. So you're talking about exactly the same person with the same intelligence and ability and personality and experience. And the only thing that has changed is their gender. And therefore, if they are treated completely differently, when people see them as a different gender, that seems to me to be slam dunk evidence of the existence of the authority gap. And I start by telling the stories of two Stanford science professors who happened by coincidence to transition in opposite directions at the same time.
Ben Barres, a neuroscientist, started living as a man. And he said, I have had the thought a million times, just taken more seriously now." He said, "My work is taken more seriously! The same damned work!" As he put it, taken more seriously now people see me as a man. And someone who didn't know his history was overheard at the back of one of his seminars "Oh, Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, his work so much better than his sisters'."
[00:26:35] Anna: Oh, no. Wow.
[00:26:38] Mary Ann: That's something, isn't it? And meanwhile, Joan Roughgarden, when she was living as a man, she said, "It was like, my career was on a conveyor belt to tenure. And I was promoted really fast and I got a seat on the University Senate Committee and my pay was good. And I talked and people lisened," was how she put it.
And once she started living as a woman, of course, all that changed. And she started finding she couldn't complete a sentence without being interrupted by a man. And she was patronized and underestimated. All these things that I've been talking about. And she said, "Well, to start with, I thought, well, if I'm going to live as a woman, I'm damn well, I'm going to be discriminated against like a woman."
And then she said, "Well, the thrill of that has worn off. I can tell you." In fact, one thing that really surprised her was that she found herself being personally attacked in a way that never happened when she was living as a man. And people would say to her things like, "You haven't read the literature," or "You don't understand the statistics," and she was completely horrified by this because she'd never experienced this before. I think that's what she found most upsetting. But her conclusion was what you said earlier, which was that men are assumed to be competent until proven otherwise. And women are seen to be incompetent until they prove otherwise.
[00:27:53] Anna: Hm. You quoted Paula Stone Williams in the book who is a trans woman that I did also have on the podcast. And she said, "Apparently since I became female, I became stupid," because of how much she is now questioned and attacked, which we'll get into because I think that's another recurring theme that you don't address the content or the substance of what the woman is saying, you focus on her. But you know, I think this is why it's so challenging because no one believes it until they see it themselves...
[00:28:24] Mary Ann: That's right. And that's what trans people say, isn't it? didn't believe it until I saw it myself, particularly trans women, you know, who've lived this gilded life of male privilege, and they just don't understand it until it happens to them. And I do use the analogy of it's as if men are swimming in a river with a really strong current, but of course you can't feel the current, that you see that banks racing past you, and you think bloody hell I'm a really strong swimmer. You see women swimming in the opposite direction, struggling to make headway against this current and you think, well, they are clearly just not as good at swimming as I am.
[00:28:58] Anna: Yeah, that's a great analogy.
[00:29:00] Mary Ann: You know, you just don't feel the current.
[00:29:02] Anna: No.
[00:29:02] Mary Ann: And actually, bigger studies of trans men and women have actually found exactly the same phenomenon. So I'm not just telling two stories, you know, there's much more evidence.
[00:29:11] Anna: Yes. You've had lots of research in the book with data, statistics and everything to back it up. We won't have time to get into all of that today, but that was definitely all there. And it's why I think that everyone should have to live as the other gender for a week of their lives...
[00:29:25] Mary Ann: Wouldn't that be great? I love the way trans men say "God, it's so great being a man. I can get away with so much. Everything's so easy."
[00:29:37] Anna: All right. So we all probably have a good understanding of how this plays out in the world. Now I want to try and understand why this happens. You know, what are the forces at play here or did any of your findings indicate that the authority gap is in fact justified?
[00:29:53] Mary Ann: Well, no, I did a whole chapter proving or showing all the evidence that women are just as competent as men. And just as intelligent as men, they actually outperformed men academically from kindergarten right through to PhDs. The IQ distribution is identical except at the very far ends of the bell curve. When you look at leadership studies, women, if anything, a slightly more effective leaders than men, they're certainly better at the style of leadership called "transformational leadership" where you engage much better with your employees and you inspire them and you're less hierarchical and more democratic and it seems to be more effective style of leadership. Which lots of men are good at, but on average, women are slightly better at. So there's no justification for the authority gap. Uh, where does it come from though? I mean, obviously millennia of patriarchy and being told by almost every religion and, you know, by traditions that men are just superior to women, which isn't the case, but it's what we, you know, it's the lies that we've been told for a very long time.
And it's just very hard to get that out of our heads. But one of the most disturbing pieces of evidence I came across was when you ask parents to estimate their children's IQ, they will estimate their sons on average at 115, and their daughters at only 107. Even though we know that children's IQs are identical and that is statistically enormously significant gap.
So boys are subliminally absorbing this notion that they are cleverer than girls, and girls are subliminally only absorbing the notion that they are less clever than boys, even though it's not even the case. And therefore, where does it come from? Well, it comes from quite early childhood. If your parents in effect are treating you as the clever one, because you're a boy and the daughter is perhaps the pretty one she's the girl. And that is really damaging, I think. There are some interesting and actually rather depressing studies of children, and it's five, six and seven year olds. And when you ask, when you say to five-year-olds, there's this really, really smart person at work, and they know the answers to all the problems, who do you think it is? And you show them photos of men and women girls on the whole we'll pick a woman and boys on the whole will pick a man, at the age of five. By the ages of six and seven, the boys were still choosing the man. so were the girls. So by the age of six and seven, they were starting to think that the very, very smart person would be a man rather than a woman.
And then the researchers asked the children if they wanted to take part in a game for really, really smart kids also to choose teammates for this game. And if they were supposed to be really, really smart, they were much more likely to choose a boy as a teammate than a girl. the boys are more inclined to take part than the girls. Whereas when they ask the children to take part in a game for kids who tried really, really hard, then the girls were keen to take part and we're more likely to be chosen. So already at the age of six and seven, you've got children believing that boys are smarter than girls, even though they're not. And also the researchers even asked the children whether they knew that girls did better at school and boys, and they knew that, and they still thought the boys were smarter.
[00:33:02] Anna: Oh, my God. That is, it's just so young. And I mean, it really helps you start to understand as well, because you talk about throughout the book, you know, making the point that it's not just men's biases against women, but it's also women's biases against women. And if it's starting from this young of an age, you can really start to understand that.
[00:33:24] Mary Ann: Yeah. And actually the same researchers who asked parents to estimate their children's IQ also asked adult men and women to estimate their IQ the men estimated themselves on average at 110. at only 105 on average, even though, again, we know the IQ distribution is identical. And so men basically on average overestimate their ability. And I think women, most of the studies I came across, women were either accurate or underestimating, very rarely overestimating. therefore, if we take people at their word, you know, this really has consequences when it comes to hiring and promotion. If we take people at their word, it's no surprise that we're more inclined to hire and promote men than women, because they're telling us how much better than they actually are.
[00:34:09] Anna: Wow. That's that is, that really says something. And, you talk a lot in the book about how the media and what we kind of absorb from the outside world feeds into this as well. Could you talk to that point in terms of who controls the narrative and what we're exposed to and how that feeds into this?
[00:34:28] Mary Ann: Yeah, the media, are very powerful in this. So if women aren't presented as sources of authority, then we're automatically going to associate male with authority, much more than female. You know, if women aren't quoted as experts as much as men are, we're going to assume that men are more expert than women just subliminally this is bound to happen. If women are cast in movies as just sex objects and help meats and don't have agency or power or, you know, complicated personalities, then that's how we're going to view women, isn't it? And you know, there is so few older women with authority, certainly in British TV. Funnily enough, I think America is a bit better about that mainly because the women have so much work done to them faces, nonetheless, they're allowed to stay on screen for longer. You know, if you've always got a sort of older newscaster with his younger, pretty female sidekick, you know, what's that going to tell us about who has most authority in the world?
And it is amazingly powerful. So one fascinating study. I came across, looked at women in STEM careers, you know, science, technology, engineering, um, that sort of thing. And It looked particularly at women of a certain generation of the right age to have watched the X-Files when they were young. And the thing about the X-Files was it was the first TV series to portray a really cool female scientist called Scully, do you remember Gillian Anderson?
[00:35:53] Anna: Yeah
[00:35:55] Mary Ann: This was amazing. 63% of these women they surveyed in STEM fields said that they'd been inspired to go into STEM because of Scully. And if one character in one TV series can change lives to such an extent, it just makes you realize how incredibly powerful the media are. And also how incredibly powerful role models are. I'm going to give you another fascinating example of female role models. So an experiment was done, asking female and male students to give a speech in public. And all the academic research shows that men on average speak much more and much longer than women in public. And we can go into why that is later if you like.
But so the research has expected the women to give shorter speeches than the men. What they did was they gave them VR goggles. So they felt like they were up on stage with this big audience of people looking at them and subtly, on the far wall, the researchers projected either a portrait of Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Bill Clinton or no portrait at all. So it was just sort of at the very back of the hall. And when the portrait was of Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel, the women spoke for just as long as the man and much more eloquently than when the portrait was of Bill Clinton or no portrait at all, when they speak 50% less than the men. Now, again, if something that subliminal can make that amount of difference, you sort of understand why women feel the way they do because the world is telling them the whole time: