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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 16. Discrimination and Self-discrimination of Women at Work


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In the previous chapter we explained that people choose certain strategies to keep, change, or upgrade their gender identity. Work discrimination against women is changing gradually toward greater equality; the occupational areas that offer more resistance are those traditionally dominated by the male gender, up to the point that many women, after having tried different strategies to manage their gender identity, abandon their careers. It is often argued that women self-discriminate themselves. The economic experiments on risk aversion clearly illustrate these self-discriminatory processes of women. This is why we are interested in these investigations. But the research does not explain the underlying motives of women’s self-discrimination. Certainly, before self-discriminating, women have suffered discrimination. We return to this subject later.

As we discussed, because of the mere fact that many adults live and work with people of different genders, they erroneously assume that we have overcome gender discrimination. Many workplaces are significantly segregated, either physically or in terms of the type of work. For example, in the military, women traditionally do not participate in the fighting, and at the U.S. Military Academy, most theoretical disciplines are fundamentally taught by men, while women are concentrated in the descriptive ← 179 | 180 → and applied disciplines like “support.” Moreover, since many friendships between men and women are perceived as sexualized, it is difficult for both to form close relationships, devoid of sexual load, unless one party is openly gay or lesbian or the relationship is within a group...

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