Research has shown that audiences penalize novelty in women’s work but also that such penalty may vary. This study builds on theories of uncertainty and status signaling to identify contingencies that may account for the variation in the female penalty for novelty, particularly in the production of technological and scientific knowledge. Drawing on theories of expectation states and gender status beliefs, I posit that peer audiences have a baseline bias against novelty in women’s work and penalize novelty in female authors’ contributions. However, when authors possess status characteristics that are more task-relevant than gender, this penalty erodes. I identify two academic status characteristics, prestigious graduate degrees and prestigious mentors, which offset the female penalty for novelty. Longitudinal multi-source data on the productivity of academic engineers show that female engineers who have these characteristics face no significant citation penalty for the novelty of their work. Implications of these findings for gender inequality and for policies that aim to reduce it are discussed.