Wellesley’s Linda Carli Tells New York Times, “Stereotypes Must Change if Equal Pay is to be Achieved”

August 4, 2016
Photo Illustration by 731

As the Washington Post recently pointed out, few experts dispute that there is a gender-based pay gap. A law was recently passed in Massachusetts aimed to close the wage gap, and politicians on the national stage are calling for change, but parity is a ways off.

Linda Carli, senior lecturer in psychology and an authority on women leaders and the challenges they face, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times, which was published in the opinion pages, about the need to "rewrite the cultural scripts that have produced [pervasive] stereotypes if we hope to address these inequities." The letter drew on Carli’s research, including a paper entitled "Stereotypes About Gender and Science: Women ≠ Scientists" that was published in Psychology of Women Quarterly. 

Carli doesn’t just research gender-based pay and promotion inequality. She addresses these topics in her courses, where her students have been "actively involved" in the study of gender stereotypes and discrimination. A recent study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly was co-authored by former students Laila Alawa '12, Yoon Ah Lee '13, Bebe Zhao '10, & Elaine Y. Kim '10. 

Carli is co-author of Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders. She discussed her work in this video about women's leadership.

The full text of New York Times Carli’s letter:

To the Editor:

We should not be surprised by the latest study documenting a pay gap between male and female physicians (“A Diagnosis That Hasn’t Changed for Female Physicians: Lower Pay,” news article, July 12). Studies have shown that women continue to earn less and advance more slowly than men, controlling for experience, education, time on the job and other variables.

A 2015 meta-analysis of 136 experiments on hiring, promotion and compensation preferences showed that men are favored over women with identical qualifications. Gender discrimination is clearly alive and well. But why?

My own extensive work shows that people see successful scientists and leaders as possessing what are considered highly masculine stereotypical traits, like assertiveness and competitiveness, and fewer traits seen as stereotypically feminine, like helpfulness and kindness.

The takeaway is sobering: Women don’t fit people’s stereotype of a good scientist or leader as well as men do, and they have to work harder and perform better to be seen as equally effective.

We must rewrite the cultural scripts that have produced these stereotypes if we hope to address these inequities.