It seems gender bias all pervasive.
“Gender biases and beliefs are very pervasive,” said Sharon Shavitt, a professor and behavioral psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-author of a University of Illinois report (June 2014) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) which showed that a severe hurricane (category 3 and higher) with a feminine name is more deadly than a storm with a masculine name. The statistical model developed by the behavioral science researchers suggests that hurricanes with female names cause nearly three times more deaths than hurricanes with masculine names. “These kind of biases routinely affect the way we judge people, even when people explicitly say they don’t believe that men and women are different.”
The findings are not surprising to scientists who specialize in the study of names: A deep well of research already shows humans judge others by names, which convey a wealth of information about race, class, age and gender. However, people may be unaware of their underlying prejudices. For example, both male and female science faculty, who are trained to be objective and aware of bias, are more likely to offer jobs to male candidates than to identically qualified women, according to a study published Sept. 24, 2012, in PNAS.
“I think they are absolutely right that names have stereotypes associated with them, and these stereotypes are going to unconsciously affect how easy it is for people to become scared of certain hurricanes,” said Cleveland Evans, a professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska and past president of the American Name Society.
Power of prejudice
Cleveland Evans, a professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska and past president of the American Name Society points out that since Germany introduced the Big Bertha cannon in World War I, the name Bertha has been connected with fat, loud and obnoxious women whilst Dolly reminds people of country signer Dolly Parton, whose friendly reputation colors perceptions of the name. He also reported that because of racism, people think anything that sounds black or Hispanic is scary, especially among male names,” [Understanding the 10 Most Destructive Human Behaviors]
Shavitt hopes the results will correct the potential influence of gender bias by raising awareness. “The power of biases is that they are so under the radar,” she said. “I suggest that when the media report about hurricanes, meteorologists avoid using gendered pronouns,” Shavitt told Live Science, referring to the way some meteorologists call the male-named storms “he” and female-named ones “she.”
[Reporting from Live Science]