June 24th, 2009

Gil Marsh cover

Our biases

- I read about this study the other day, that when a customer is served by a white male, the service is viewed as more satisfactory than if the same service is given by a white woman or a black man.

- Same service?

- Identical.

- Does it matter who receives the service?

- No. As the researcher concluded, "Everyone -- white, black, men, women -- think the white man is more valuable."

- That's pretty depressing.

- Well then I read about this economic study about gender biases towards playwrights. It had a few surprising results.

- Like?

- Plays by female playwrights are judged more harshly by female artistic directors than male ones.

- And male artistic directors?

- They judged plays by male and female playwrights equally.

- Huh?

- Emily Glassberg Sands, who did the research, speculates that it might be because female artistic directors know the prejudices female playwrights face. They hold them to a higher standard because they know they won't make it otherwise.

- That seems pretty harsh.

- It is. But facts seem to bear them out. Although plays written by women that are produced end up being more profitable, they are shut down at a faster rate than ones written by men.

- Wait a minute. The play is more profitable than a similar one written by a man. . .

- And it's shut down sooner.

- Harsh.

- Tell me about it.