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Gender at Work

A Social Psychological Perspective


Melanie C. Steffens and Ma. Àngels Viladot

While many women receive equal education, such equality is nowhere in sight when it comes to women’s and men’s career success: men still earn significantly more than women and are more likely to be promoted. In this book, the authors offer a state of the art review of applied social-psychological research on gender at work, shedding light on all the different ways that work-related perceptions, attributions, outcomes, and the like differ for women and men. Focusing on domains (e.g., engineering) and positions (e.g., leadership) that are marked by women’s underrepresentation, the first part of the book looks at gender at work in terms of stereotypes, attitudes, and social roles, including parenthood, while the second part takes a social identity and communication perspective, exploring the situations in which men and women interact at work. Many chapters focus on applied questions, such as career choice, effects of role models, and sexual harassment at work. Theories and findings are applied to these topics, with conclusions and recommendations drawn throughout the book.
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In numbers greater than ever before, women today are working in business and industry, law and medicine, academics and government, no longer only as support staff for male executives but as managers and executives in their own right. With some regularity, newspaper articles and television programs profile women who have “made it,” doing extraordinarily well in fields that were previously lacking any high-level female representation. Yet while the increases in women’s professional attainments are measurable, they are only partial. The 2014 Forbes’ list of “The world’s most powerful people” was proclaimed notable because for the first time, two women were listed among the top 10 (German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen). But at the same time, only 7 women were included in the next 90 rungs on the ladder of those deemed powerful. Glass ceilings, glass cliffs (Ryan & Haslam, 2005), and labyrinths (Eagly & Carli, 2007) remain, posing challenges to women who want to attain equity in their careers and their lives.

In the words of Virginia Valian (1997), “Why so slow?” Why, after four to five decades of discussion and debate, assessment and appraisal, do the statistics still show that gender equity is far from a reality in organizations throughout the world? So often, the first answers to this question focus on women themselves. What are they doing wrong? What could they do differently? ← VII | VIII → Why don’t they do what men do? In her best-selling book on women in business,...

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