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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 4. Effects of Stereotypes on One’s Own Behavior


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Even if we acknowledge that our impressions of others can be biased by stereotypes, it may be harder to accept that our own interests, choices, and behaviors depend on those very stereotypes. However, they clearly do. In our societies in which gender is one of the most pervasive social categories into which people are “sorted” quite automatically (see the section on gender categorization in Chapter 1), children start at an early age to use this category as an organizing principle for experiences and perceptions (see Deaux & Major, 1987). In particular, in situations in which one gender is a minority, this category becomes very accessible (i.e., salient). People also differ in their readiness to use gender as an organizing theme for perception and action (see the concept gender schema in Part II of this book). For example, implicit gender stereotypes of science and humanities were related to women’s career plans, particularly when women were highly gender identified (Lane, Goh, & Driver-Linn, 2012). The stronger their stereotypes that science is male and humanities are female, the more likely they indicated a preference for majoring in humanities and not in science.

An important topic in this context is domain-specific achievement-related behavior. It is assumed “that the conscious and non-conscious choices people make about how to spend their time and effort lead, over time, to ← 53 | 54 → marked differences between groups and individuals in life-long achievement-related patterns” and “... that these choices are heavily influenced by socialization...

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