Gender Bias Learning Project

A zany brainy look at a serious subject

A project of the Center for WorkLife Law UC Hastings College of the Law

Gender Wars

When gender bias pits women against women

When women are required to fit into tightly defined feminine roles in order to be accepted, those who are willing to act as expected often end up in opposition to those who aren’t. Women who behave in traditionally feminine ways may find women who behave in traditionally masculine ways off-putting, and vice versa. In this way, gender bias can create conflict among women.

Likewise, professional women who have succeeded by playing by men’s rules may have a lot invested in proving that “that’s what it takes to be a serious professional.” Women who seek to change the old rules may feel shocked and betrayed if more established professional women don’t support them.

So-called “mommy wars” are one type of gender war. Mommy wars are particularly acute in academia because of the high percentage of women who do not have children. Sometimes childless women who may be regretful that they never had children, may think: “I gave up so much, why should she have it all?” “Child-free” women, who never wanted children, may feel that mothers seeking to change the old rules are reinforcing stereotypes by asking for special treatment.


These scenarios illustrate Gender Wars (or the lack of them). These scenarios are based on information from surveys and focus groups of faculty women.

Subtle bias

Severe bias

No bias

Sure, I Get It! – Pop Quiz

After learning about all four gender bias patterns, take our Gender Bias Quiz to see how much you’ve learned. Click here.

Expert Videos


Watch experts describe the Gender Wars bias.
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Survival Strategies

Watch experts suggest how to survive the Gender Wars bias.
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