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When Women and Racial Minorities Seek Help, Mentioning Their Demographic Identity is an Asset
Receiving help can make or break a career, but bias and discrimination can prevent women and racial minorities from receiving instrumental support. Across two audit experiments with politicians and students and an online experiment (total N = 5,148), we test whether women and racial minorities benefit from explicitly mentioning their demographic identity in requests for help (e.g., with statements like “As a Black woman. . . ”). We propose that highlighting one’s marginalized identity activates prospective helpers’ motivations to avoid prejudiced reactions, ultimately increasing their willingness to help. Consistent with this theorizing, when marginalized identity group members explicitly mentioned their demographic identity in help-seeking emails, politicians and students responded 24.6% and 79.6% more often, respectively. Our online experiment suggests this effect is driven by prospective helpers’ increased desire to respond without prejudice.