In the case of gender, research across disciplines shows that believing an organization or its policies are merit-based makes it easier to overlook the subconscious operation of bias. People in such organizations assume that everything is already meritocratic, and so there is no need for self-reflection or scrutiny of organizational processes. In fact, psychologists have found that emphasizing the value of merit can actually lead to more bias in favor men.
There is mounting evidence that directing development projects only toward women while neglecting men may actually be hurting the cause. When men do not have access to the same resources as women do, or feel that they are losing their power relative to women, they are more likely to undermine projects. In Guatemala, women withdrew from an income generation project because their husbands did not like the amount of time they were spending outside the house with men who were not family relations. A national survey of microfinance clients in Bangladesh found that some women were actually more susceptible to domestic violence after receiving loans, as the men in their lives sought to control the money women received or to punish women who could not repay.