Stereotype threat: Antecedents and consequences for working women

This paper investigates antecedents and consequences of stereotype threat for female employees. Study 1 involved collection of self-report data from female employees (N = 108) of an international consumer goods organization in Australia. Participants completed measures assessing their tendency to engage in social comparisons with both men and women (e.g., When you think about your career progression in the organization, how much do you compare yourself to [men/women] in the organization?), a measure of stereotype threat (e.g., Some of my colleagues feel that I have less ability because Im a woman), and a measure of the degree that female and work identities are seperated (e.g., I feel I am continuously switching between my usual feminine-self and my work-self). Correlational analyses suggest that the tendency to engage in social comparisons with men, but not with women, predicts greater stereotype threat. Also, the commonality of social comparisons with men also correlated with the tendency to separate of work and gender identities. Finally, reports of stereotype threat were positively correlated with identity separation. Study 2 involved women (N = 147) who worked in the Australian offices of an international law firm. Social comparison and stereotype threat measures were again administered along with questions about respondents career aspirations within the organization. Findings again indicated that the tendency to engage in social comparisons with men was associated with higher degrees of stereotype threat While stereotype threat was not directly related to career aspirations, it did account for the relationship between womens social comparisons with men and their beliefs regarding the likelihood that they would achieve their career aspirations. Specifically, women who tended to engage in social comparisons with men were more likely to experience stereotype threat and to express lower levels of confidence that they would reach their career goals. Study 3 was conducted with women (N = 253) in the legal profession in Australia who completed measures of stereotype threat, identity separation, and career aspirations and also measures of job satisfaction, global job satisfaction, and intent to turnover. Results showed that stereotype threat was negatively associated with job satisfaction and global job satisfaction, and positively associated with intent to turnover. These findings demonstrate that stereotype threat can, both directly and indirectly through other judgment, affect career satisfaction, attitudes, and, intentions.

Von Hippel, C., Issa, M., Ma, R., & Stokes, A. (2011). Stereotype threat: Antecedents and consequences for working women. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 151-161.