Research Shows Men Help Women Survive, But Not Thrive

4 min read

Traditional gender roles dictate that men should treat women with chivalry, which often means providing assistance to women in need; this includes victims of harassment, accidents, natural disasters, or other traumas.



Yet a recent study by Bareket et al., published in Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, examines whether potential helpers might feel threatened by female empowerment. It finds that men are indeed less likely to assist a female victim if offering help would empower her and enable her to thrive.

When Do Men Help Women?

Study 1

Sample: American men (n = 284; average age of 36 years old) and women (n = 282; average age of 38 years old), recruited through Prolific. Everyone received $0.80 for participating. They were also entered into a raffle to win five prizes ($10 each).


Four conditions (2 donation contexts X 2 recipient’s gender):

Participants were instructed to read a newspaper article about wildfires that had destroyed either shops or homes and read a donation appeal from either a man or woman whose house/shop had supposedly been destroyed by the fire. They then indicated how much of the raffle prize money they would be willing to donate to the victim.

Study 2

Sample: Israeli students—135 men (mean age of 23 years old) and 165 women (mean age of 22 years old). They participated in the research in exchange for course credit and were additionally entered into a raffle to win two $15 prizes.


The methods used resembled those of the previous investigation, except that the two appeals were presented together. Both appeals concerned a burned-down building (house or business); however, one came from a man and the other from a woman.

Participants were asked whether they preferred to make a donation to the male or female victim. Subsequently, they were asked to discuss their donation decision and feelings toward the victim. For example, the victim’s perceived agency, ability, and neediness.

Men Help Women Survive But Not Prosper

The results indicated men show a bias in making charitable donations to women, particularly to businesswomen.

  • In Study 1, men, but not women, “donated lesser amounts to female recipients than to male recipients when the appeal was in a business versus a domestic context.”
  • In Study 2, “When donors were able to choose a recipient in a business [vs. domestic] context, female recipients were chosen less often… by male donors compared to female donors.”

And when men did make donations to businesswomen, the results showed, the amount was less than that offered to businessmen. Why?

Perhaps the results were due to a lack of empathy. The data showed that male donors felt career women were not as warm and likable as their male counterparts. Dominance, assertiveness, leadership, and other agentic characteristics in career women elicited less sympathy and compassion, possibly because they are counter-stereotypical behaviors. Simply put, an assertive and empowered woman is the complete opposite of the stereotypical woman (i.e. dependent, passive, submissive).

Thus, these findings call into question the assumption that female victims always receive more help from men than women. Men appear unwilling and hesitant to offer aid if it empowers women and could potentially threaten masculine hegemony.




An investigation by researchers in Israel examined men’s decision-making about charitable donations to either men or women in different contexts. It found evidence of gender bias against businesswomen. Specifically, men appeared to help women survive but not prosper.

These subtle forms of sexism may be a major reason why progress toward gender equality has slowed down significantly in recent years. Indeed, though gender bias is more visible in situations involving open hostility toward women and female empowerment, sexism is not necessarily absent in other situations. Even when men seem to behave with selfless kindness and generosity toward women, a closer look may show a more complex picture.

This is important because these manifestations of gender-based prejudice have the potential to cause greater damage than blatant sexism. After all, they are more subtle, indirect, and complex, which makes them harder to spot and root out.

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours