Who Has More Creativity, Men Or Women?
New research explores gender stereotypes related to creativity and creative potential.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | March 5, 2022
New research appearing in the Journal of Applied Psychology provides some much-needed perspective on a controversial question in psychological science: is there a gender difference in creative potential and performance? The authors suggest that while men are generally perceived to be more creative than women, this is probably not the case from an empirical standpoint. Furthermore, new studies show that the stereotype that men are more creative is eroding over time and is less pronounced in countries that have more gender equality.
"We found that men were rated to have higher creative performance than women," says Snehal Hora, a researcher at the University at Buffalo School of Management and lead author of the paper. "However, we found optimistic results about the decline in the gender stereotype in recent years," she adds.
To better understand this phenomenon, the researchers gathered data from 259 independent studies on gender and creativity conducted over the past few decades.
The results revealed that the problematic belief that men are superior in creative domains has declined over time — but also that gender composition by industry did not influence the stereotype's prevalence.
"We expected the gender divide to diminish in industries with a greater female presence," says Hora. "Surprisingly, however, our findings indicated that, irrespective of the industry, the gender gap in creative performance was problematically pervasive."
Hora sees this as evidence that organizations need to be more mindful of gender creativity stereotypes and should take measures to alleviate them.
Pointing out a key finding of the research, Hora notes that the gender stereotype was larger when employees evaluated their own creativity as compared to when their creativity was rated by others.
"In simple terms, it appeared that, knowingly or not, women were more self-critical when it came to creativity," comments Hora. "Although others' biased ratings of women's creative performance did exist, the biases women held against themselves appeared stronger."
In recent years, gender studies have increasingly focused on others' prejudices and have placed less emphasis on the subconscious biases that women develop against themselves, Hora points out. Because of this, the authors suggest that organizations should take measures to provide the right kind of environment where women not only feel comfortable being creative but also are encouraged to view their creativity accurately.
"An environment that fosters gender egalitarianism, kindness, equality, and concern for others is likely to be beneficial in boosting the creativity of women and men," say the authors.
The researchers also note that the gender gap is contingent on context and cultural factors.
"Culture played a significant role in determining the gender disparity as well," say the authors. "Cultures that were more masculine (e.g., the USA) were detrimental for women's creativity, whereas those that were gender-egalitarian or relations-focused (e.g., Nordic countries) were conducive for women's creativity."
There's also the unexplained issue of a small but pervasive difference in creative performance, which raises questions about the relative equality of men's and women's creative abilities.
Hora questions, "If the capability to be creative is equivalent across genders, then why does their performance vary?"
A full interview with Snehal Hora discussing her research on gender and creativity can be found here: Are men more creative than women?