Based on system‐justification theory, we hypothesized that men and women would perform in accordance with gender stereotypes mainly when justification of the system is necessary. In this research, system‐justification motivation was triggered using a system‐dependency manipulation. Study 1 shows that when feeling highly (vs. less) dependent on the system, people endorsed system‐justifying beliefs more. In Study 2, men performed better in math than in verbal domains, while women showed the reverse pattern, but only when they felt highly dependent on the system. Similar results were obtained on performance self‐evaluation. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.