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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 15. Identity Management Strategies


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When people are not satisfied with their social identity, they have three possible alternatives for a more positive assessment: individual mobility, social creativity, or social competition. The strategy or direction of the behavior adopted by the person depends on the perceived legitimacy of the situation, the stability of intergroup relations, and the permeability of group boundaries (Tajfel, 1982). As we have seen, the social group “women” has been stigmatized for centuries by the patriarchal system, and the prototypical woman has been the housewife. Let’s examine the strategies women might develop to improve their situation in the workplace.

Individual mobility is seen to be associated with a general belief in the possibility of social mobility, while social creativity and social competition are conceptualized as aspects of a belief system of social change. The latter system of beliefs is likely to dictate the behavior of people when the feeling of belonging to a group is very strong and when they are aware that they must act either to enhance or defend their status.

In the workplace, for example, women who perceive that there is a “glass ceiling” may believe that their best strategy for advancing at work is to progress as an individual (for example, act as “one of the boys”) instead of trying to establish collective action to improve the way women are ← 165 | 166 → treated and their status in general (Ellemers & van Laar, 2010; Haslam, 2004; Schmitt, Ellemers, & Branscombe,...

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