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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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Chapter 2. Implicit Cognition


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Imagine you are part of a job search committee and you are reviewing applications. Out of 10 applicants, only 1 woman has applied for the job. She seems less qualified to you than the best of the men. How do you know whether she is truly less qualified or if knowing her gender influenced your impression? Over the last few decades, social psychology has witnessed a tremendous interest in so-called implicit cognition (e.g., Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). Implicit stereotypes are beliefs of social groups that are triggered automatically by the mere presence of the stereotyped object, often without a person’s awareness or control (see Bargh, 1994). For example, if a personnel manager encounters a newly employed female executive in the company, he or she may spontaneously lower his or her performance expectations of the female employee compared to her male colleagues because the manager implicitly ascribes a lack of management skills to women (see Heilman, 2012). This example points to the importance of assessing people’s implicit beliefs in addition to their explicit opinions. Explicit opinions are typically assessed with self-reports. That is, people are asked in a transparent way to provide their opinion on the topics of interest. There are two main reasons for the use of implicit measures. First, other than explicit measures, they do not rely on participants’ willingness to report private knowledge (Greenwald et al., 2002). This property is essential ← 23 | 24 → whenever socially delicate topics are addressed. In such situations, people...

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