Women and Black people are more often viewed as 'lucky' than competent when they succeed

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 that

- Men are seen as being instrumental in their success and women are seen as being passive.

- Women are only credited with their success at exceptionally high levels of performance and achievement – a “twice as hard to be considered half as good” effect.

- Female professionals are more likely than their male colleagues to be perceived as lucky in their accomplishments instead of being competent.

- 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.

- Black individuals were more often viewed as lucky in their success and less able, which translates to lesser opportunity and reward.

- Prejudice in both the attributions of success (i.e., assessments of low ability and greater luck) and the evaluations of performance (i.e., harsher appraisals) meant black managers were seen as less promotable than their white counterparts.

- Negative attributions were less prevalent when the supervisor-supervisee relationship was stronger and longer-term. Thus, relationship and familiarity may prove to be an effective prescription to attenuate biases in interpersonal attributions of success.

In summary, you can produce high-quality results, overachieve KPIs, and be an inclusive leader people want to work with but if you are a woman and/or Black person chances are that others will attribute that success to luck rather than to your skills, experience, or talent.

Notes to self

1.- Next time I refer to my success, avoid using the word “lucky”, which may reinforce the stereotype.

2.- When people “congratulate” me on being lucky for my success, remind them about the skills and achievements that got me there.

3.- When I see the success of women and people of underrepresented groups only attributed to luck, remind them about the person’s skills and achievements that got them there.

What do you retain?