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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 19. Communication Accommodation Theory and Intergender Boundaries


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We have a wide variety of ways to start a conversation with our neighbors, friends, relatives, and acquaintances. These forms express the degree of closeness or social remoteness that we maintain with our partner (Gallois, Ogay, & Giles, 2005; Giles & Gasiorek, 2013). The choice of how we address the other is both a reflection of the relationship we want to have and the social definition of the type of situation we are in (Giles, Willemyns, Gallois, & Anderson, 2007). For example, depending on the interlocutor and the situation, we can address our interlocutor formally or familiarly, marking distance or not. Such markers are cultural and socially well defined, but their improper use can cause communication problems (Coupland, Giles, & Wiemann, 1991).

Adapting to others is an essential part of interpersonal interaction and social success. We do not speak to our colleagues the same way we speak to our partners or to our parents the same way we speak to our children; rather, we adapt communication to the present circumstances (Giles & Gasiorek, 2013; Giles et al., 2007). The Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) developed by Howard Giles and colleagues (Gallois et al., 2005; Gasiorek, 2013; Gasiorek & Giles, 2012, 2013; Giles et al., 2007; Shepard, Giles, & Le Poire, 2001), influenced by the social identity perspective, analyzes communication as “something more” than an exchange ← 203 | 204 → of individual linguistic behavior. It explores the different ways in which we settle our communication, our motivations...

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