The impact of blatant stereotype activation and group sex-composition on female leaders

These studies investigated the effects of stereotype threat on self-appraisal or female leaders. Study 1 investigated how the addition of a solo status threat (leading a group of men) to already threatened female leaders impacted their self-appraisals and performance. Female undergraduate students (N = 55) were randomly assigned to either read about leadership factors unrelated to gender (control condition) or were informed that the purpose of the study was to determine why women have a difficult time achieving high-level corporate positions (stereotype threat). Participants then individually completed a leadership task, completed a self-appraisal questionnaire, and were subsequently told they had scored in the 45th percentile on the leadership task. Participants were informed that the second phase of the study involved leading an actual group, and they were taken to a monitoring room to watch the group interact. Those in the stereotype threat condition watched a video of three men (solo status threat) and those in the control saw three women. They then again completed the self-appraisal questionnaire. Results showed that women under stereotype threat had a reactance response, reporting more confident initial self-appraisals than those in the control condition. Despite these higher self-appraisals, performance on the leadership task was the same for both groups. The researchers also found that stereotype threat combined with solo status led to a vulnerability response - participants self-appraisals for the group task decreased after the solo status threat. Study 2 (N = 71 female students) again used a 2 (control vs. stereotype threat) by 2 (solo or not solo) design, except that participants actually completed a group leadership task. In addition, additional self-appraisal measures including questionnaires regarding self-efficacy, leadership performance, and self-esteem were collected. In terms of leadership effectiveness, participants who received either the blatant stereotype activation or the solo status demonstrated positive reactance responses, reporting higher leadership self-efficacy, leadership performance appraisal, and self-esteem than the control group. However, combining the two threats produced negative responses, producing lower self-report measures than the control. Study 3 (N = 157) investigated women who completed a leadership task leading mixed (1 man, 1 woman) or gender neutral (2 women) groups after receiving a blatant stereotype threat manipulation or not. Findings matched patterns from the previous study - blatant stereotype threat and solo status threat each produced positive reactance responses on their own but negative responses when they were combined. This study shows that exposure to blatant stereotypes can actually produce boosts in self-appraisals but, when combined with a situation that further instigates stereotype threat, can undermine self-appraisals and performance.

Hoyt, C. L., Johnson, S. K., Murphy, S. E., & Hogue Skinnell, K. (2010). The impact of blatant stereotype activation and group sex-composition on female leaders. The Leadership Quarterly, 21, 716-732.

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