IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Women are more often viewed as 'lucky' than competent when they succeed: Study

And that view can translate into fewer opportunities for women, in addition to lower pay and fewer promotions.
Senior professional giving presentation in meeting
Morsa Images / Getty Images

New research shows that instead of being viewed as talented, women are often considered “lucky” to have successful careers. And that can translate into fewer opportunities for women, in addition to unequal pay and fewer promotions.

The study from The Inclusion Initiative from the London School of Economics took a look at 50 years of research from 1970 to 2020 and found female professionals are more likely than their male colleagues to be thought of as lucky in their accomplishments instead of being competent.

“When we say, ‘Oh, she was lucky to do that,’ or ‘She caught a good break on that project,’ we are taking agency away from [women],” said Maggie McGrath, editor of ForbesWomen, on Wednesday’s “Morning Joe” during a discussion about the study. “We are devaluing that work. And when you devalue women’s work, you are more likely to exacerbate gender discrimination and pay gaps in the workplace.”

The research also found that when men make mistakes at work, they are more likely to be viewed as unlucky. And when a woman makes a mistake, it is more likely to be seen through the lens of her ability.

“Women are getting hit on both ends of the equation here,” said McGrath. “They’re lucky to have the job, but when they make a mistake, it’s ‘Oh they’re not skilled. That’s they’re fault.’”

McGrath said that in order to combat the luck and ability biases at work, employers must increase the number of women in jobs that have historically ben held by men. In addition, company’s should recruit on task-based assessments (versus a candidate’s view of herself) and hold decision makers accountable.