Unkind to Two of a Kind: Stereotyping Women with Duo Status in a Work Group

Men evaluate women as contributing less leadership and having fewer skills when there are two women in a group compared to when there are one or three.   


Stereotypes in work settings are particularly problematic for women. Women are seen as warm and supportive, but lacking leadership traits such as dominance or assertiveness. Research has found that when there are fewer women in a work setting, there is a higher presence of gender bias in their performance evaluations such that female managers receive lower evaluations from their male peers until the female managers reach a critical mass. Like the term solo status, which refers to being the only member of one’s social category in a group, this work introduces the term duo status which refers to being one of exactly two members of one’s social category (but still in the minority) in a group. Having duo status creates heightened visibility and categorization, leading to increased stereotyping of women when there are two in the group compared to one or three. This study demonstrates how these stereotypes result in biased performance evaluations by looking at how having one, two, or three women in a group differentially affects male peers’ perceptions of women’s leadership ability. Organizations’ strategies to retain and promote female leaders should consider group composition effects and recognize that female duos may be more vulnerable than solos to the negative impact of stereotyping in groups.


Men evaluate women more stereotypically when there are two women in a group than when there are one or three.

  • When observing groups that are majority male, a woman is viewed as more stereotypically female (less potent and more warm) when in a duo female group (one of two women), compared to when she is a solo (the only woman) or in a trio (one of three women). On a scale of -3 to +3 that measured masculine to feminine stereotypes, male peers ranked duo women as more female stereotyped (-.59), compared to solo women (-2.31) and trio women (-1.7).

Men evaluate women as contributing less leadership and having fewer skills when there are two women in a group than when there are one or three.

  • When engaged in a masculine group task, men evaluated female peers in duo female groups lower on leadership and skills then women in solo and trio female groups. There was no difference in men’s evaluations of female peers’ effort based on group composition.

Women in duo female groups felt more stereotyped because of their gender than women in both solo and trio female groups.


In the first experiment, researchers recruited 231 male workers at least 18 years of age from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk website, which closely represents the general population of the United States. Participants observed one group composed of male and female avatars representing a company called ACME Investments, and engaged in deciding which companies ACME should acquire. Group composition was majority male and manipulated whether there were one, two, or three females. Participants evaluated the target female on eight bipolar scales measuring gender stereotypes from +3 to -3: strong-weak; dominant-submissive; harsh-lenient; hard-soft; warm-cold; supportive-detached; trusting-skeptical; and caring-distant.

In the second study participants engaged in a group performance task to assemble an exact replica of a Lego model as quickly as possible. A pretest of 169 students at a private U.S. university showed that men would be considered more expert and knowledgeable at the task than women. Participants were one hundred sixty-five 18-25 year old students in a non-credit business education program (37 women).  They were placed in groups with seven or eight members that were majority male and had one, two, or three female members. After completing the task, each member completed a peer evaluation form, evaluating every other member of their group on leadership, skills, and effort, on a scale of 0 to 9.

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