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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 11. Role Models


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We start our discussion on role models by looking at mentoring. Following Blickle and colleagues (2008), this is a one-on-one professional relationship between a less and a more experienced person, intended to facilitate the growth of the less advanced person. Mentoring is positively related to many indicators of achievement (e.g., income, promotion). Women sometimes report a stronger need for mentoring than men do (see Lyness & Thompson, 2000). At the same time, only female mentors can provide same-gender role models to women; in contrast, relationships with male mentors have been found to be more vital to career success, presumably because of the men’s more central role in companies and networks. Men can get both aspects at once from a male mentor: a role model and a central network figure.

As we have seen, people often self-stereotype, behaving in manners that are considered appropriate for the social groups to which they belong. For example, girls form non-STEM school interests because they associate STEM fields with boys. But, this being said, there are also girls and women who choose counterstereotypic interests and occupations, thus provoking social change: Fields such as medicine are no longer stereotypically male, although they definitely were several decades ago. When considering under what conditions women pursue counterstereotypic interests, an important ingredient is the role model. Seminal studies have demonstrated the importance of role ← 133 | 134 → models for considering and performing new behaviors (Bandura, 1965). It is widely believed that role model...

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