If you saw the debate between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott for the Australian election you saw a clear trend, even though, not a clear winner. Women, from the ‘worm’ that TV channels presented, clearly favored Julia Gillard’s answers while the men clearly favored Tony Abbot’s answers. Why?
There was a similar trend between prospective voters in the United States when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton went up for election to represent the Democrats for general election. Of course, eventually, Barack Obama came out on top. But, let’s not forget that African Americans did vote over 80% on average for Barack Obama, and this included women.
So what does this all mean? Why do women want women for the top position more, and why do men want men for the top position more; and, why did the Africans Americans defy this gender trend and vote for their race for the top position almost unanimously?
There is this little thing in the psychology field called ingroup and outgroup bias. There have been experiments in psychology with this fundamental concept that have come out with such decisive results that the concept is universally accepted now.
In a famous experiment randomly selected children from similar racial, religious, and demographic backgrounds were taken to a camp and separated into two groups to compete against each other. One group spontaneously started calling themselves the ‘Rattlers,’ while the other group called themselves the ‘Eagles.’ They were housed in different quarters. “As each group became distantly aware of the presence of the other group they seemed to become reinforced in their own sense of being a group.” http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/social/sherif_robbers_cave_experiment.html details the whole experiment. Hostilities became so strong between them that one group burnt the other’s flag and the worse pursued.
While it is obvious from the ingroup bias why women went for Julia Gillard, why African American women chose Barack Obama is a bit more perplexing. I believe that African American women associate more strongly with being black than with being female. It forms a more significant part of their identity. To make it clearer, if asked what they would call themselves first, black or female, those who voted for Obama would likely call themselves black first because they would identify with it more.
I believe this basic understanding of human nature by psychologists is capable of explaining many sentiments around the world such as the biased support for one’s own gender, race, nationality, color, you name it.