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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 14. Social Identity Perspective


← 156 | 157 → ·14·

All human creatures are part of larger groups. Since the beginning of our existence we have socialized within groups that have helped shape our personalities, beliefs, and attitudes (e.g., family, school), and we continue into adulthood as a part of groups (e.g., working groups, friends) that exert a great influence on us (Tajfel, 1982). As if this were not enough, our gender, age, culture, and nationality also place us in a series of larger groups or social categories that shape our view of the world and determine how we are perceived or treated by other people.

One of the most influential theoretical influences in intergroup communication studies is the social identity perspective (Abrams & Hogg, 2010; Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987). Under this label, two theories are summarized: social identity theory and self-categorization theory. The social identity perspective states that people categorize themselves into groups and do the same with others, placing them in certain groups and not others. This process of categorizing ourselves in groups we value helps define our social identity and makes social comparisons easier. Social comparison, in turn, involves an exaggeration of differences between groups and an exaggeration of the similarities between people within groups.

← 157 | 158 → Focusing on gender categorizations, these do not have the same meaning for everyone. Women cannot be treated as a unified group because there are too many women with different identities to include them all in one group. When...

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