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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 9. Career Choice


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In the previous chapters, we have elucidated many theories and findings related to gender at work, and each chapter mirrored different theoretical topics and stances that can be applied to many practical questions. From here, the book is structured differently. Chapters 9 to 14 are organized around practical questions, situations, and topics. All of the previously elaborated theories and findings that are relevant are applied to these situations, with respective recommendations and interventions being deduced. Information from previous chapters is summarized and several chapters review topics that have not been addressed. We begin with career choice.

The choice of a specific major, and subsequently, career, appears to be a highly gendered matter. Very few occupations are chosen by similar numbers of women and men. Conversely, there are many in which we find hardly any women and others in which hardly any men are present. We focus here on two specific domains in which there is a lack of women: STEM fields and entrepreneurship. Before we do so, what can we conclude from the theoretical perspectives?

One cannot think about career choice without starting with gender stereotypes. We concluded earlier that gender stereotypes have a profound influence on individuals’ interests, their development of abilities, and the relevant ← 113 | 114 → self-concepts. Similar to the lack of fit model that describes how we arrive at the conclusion that another person fits a certain job, people wonder how far their interests and abilities match their...

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