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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 3. Effects of Stereotypes on Judging Others


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A recent commercial showed men and women in different situations at work—during a meeting, giving a presentation, alone in the office at night. It suggests that a male leader is perceived as the boss, while a female leader seems bossy; where he appears persuasive, she appears pushy; and when working long hours, he appears dedicated, whereas she appears selfish (thanks to Laurie Rudman for pointing this out to us). The message is this: If women and men do the same, others (i.e., perceivers) interpret their behavior very differently. The gender stereotypes we introduced earlier would thus have profound consequences for how we “see” individual women and men. Whether this is the case is not a trivial question. For instance, it could be that we hold the stereotype that more men than women are natural leaders, but the moment we see a woman leading, we simply note that she is an exception and perceive her identically to her male colleagues. Alternatively, as the commercial suggests, gender stereotypes may influence how we perceive and judge individual women and men. In the following, we devote much space to this question, because hundreds of studies have tested it and provide more nuanced responses than a simple “yes” or “no.” We ask the questions: Are individual women and men described in gender-stereotypical terms? If women and men act similarly, are they still perceived to differ?

← 33 | 34 → Research findings suggest that the answer is yes. Evidence that...

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