When seeking help, women and racial/ethnic minorities benefit from explicitly stating their identity


Receiving help can make or break a career, but women and racial/ethnic minorities do not always receive the support they seek. Across two audit experiments—one with politicians and another with students—as well as an online experiment (total n = 5,145), we test whether women and racial/ethnic minorities benefit from explicitly mentioning their demographic identity in requests for help, for example, by including statements like “As a Black woman…” in their communications. We propose that when a help seeker highlights their marginalized identity, it may activate prospective helpers’ motivations to avoid prejudiced reactions and increase their willingness to provide support. Here we show that when women and racial/ethnic minorities explicitly mentioned their demographic identity in help-seeking emails, politicians and students responded 24.4% (7.42 percentage points) and 79.6% (2.73 percentage points) more often, respectively. These findings suggest that deliberately mentioning identity in requests for help can improve outcomes for women and racial/ethnic minorities.

Nature Human Behaviour
Aneesh Rai
Aneesh Rai
Assistant Professor, Management & Organization

My research interests include diversity, discrimination, and behavior change.