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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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Women’s roles in many societies have changed dramatically over the last hundred years. In little more than a century, women have gained the rights to obtaining an education, to voting, to running for public office via election, and choosing to work without their father’s or husband’s consent. In short, gender equality in the eyes of the law has mostly been obtained. In hindsight, some of the dates at which equal rights for women were acquired appear out of sync. As one example from the realm of sports, the Austrian soccer association prohibited women’s teams in 1957 and did not officially recognize them until 1982 (from Wikipedia). Of course, there are also many countries in the world today where women still do not possess the same rights as men.

In many countries, women have caught up with men in education (United Nations Development Program Human Development Report, 2014). In fact, they now even outnumber male students in some countries (e.g., U.S. Department of Education, 2000). Equal education, it should seem, is an ideal precondition for gaining equality at work. Alas, such equality is nowhere in sight. The United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index reflects inequality in men’s and women’s achievement in health, empowerment, and ← 1 | 2 → the labor market. As one figure reported there, the share of women’s seats in government is below 50% in all major countries and a low 21% on average in the world. Women also still trail behind men with respect to participation in the labor...

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