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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 20. Intergroup Contact, Gender, and Leadership


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The intergroup research that has been conducted thus far seems to show that one of the central characteristics of workplace discrimination against female leaders is the existing unfavorable attitudes toward them. Such attitudes are sustained by social ideologies as well as, among other factors, a general lack of knowledge about female leaders (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2011; van Laar, Levin, & Sidanius, 2008). There is a relatively small number of women in traditionally male-dominated industries. When contact between men and women is first established in these types of industries, it creates anxiety, especially in men, due to the negative consequences that this can bring about to the individual as well as to the privileged group (Stephan & Stephan, 2000). One of the biggest barriers that needs to be overcome is perhaps intergroup anxiety; it is therefore critical to be able to obtain information about individuals from the out-group (Stephan & Stephan, 2000; Turner, Hewstone, & Voci, 2007; Turner, Hewstone, Voci, & Vonofakou, 2008). This anxiety has at least four origins: (a) the sensation that one’s existence, well-being, political power, organizational power, and so forth, within the group, are being threatened; (b) the perception that individuals from the out-group are a threat to the values, ← 215 | 216 → beliefs, ethics, and norms of the in-group; (c) the perception that one’s I is being threatened (e.g., fear of rejection), which is felt during interactions within the group; and (d) a fear of anxiety within the group (whether it has...

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