Table of Contents

Gender in Organizations

Gender in Organizations

Are Men Allies or Adversaries to Women’s Career Advancement?

Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Debra A. Major

Diversifying the workforce is becoming increasingly important, with gender equality being a central feature of overall equality. Men seem to be part of the problem and a necessary part of the solution. This collection ties these themes together in the context of talent management and organizational effectiveness.

Chapter 12: Stereotype threat impacts on women in the workforce

Valerie N. Streets and Hannah-Hanh D. Nguyen

Subjects: business and management, diversity and management, gender and management, organisational behaviour


The perceived and actual impacts of gender stereotypes on womenís life and work outcomes have long been described and evidenced in the broad interdisciplinary literature on stigmatization and discrimination (see Major and OíBrien, 2005). Gender stereotypes about women are consisted of socio-cultural beliefs about womenís characteristics (as compared with those of menís): (1) women are inherently kind, warm, caring, nurturing, agreeable, sensitive, and sympathetic (i.e., being communal; Heilman, 2001), and (2) women should not be ambitious, competitive, outspoken, independent, and assertive or aggressive because those are menís characteristics (i.e., being agentic; Burgess and Borgida, 1999; Heilman, 2001). Gender-based stereotypes are also composed of negative stigmas about womenís inferior abilities or capabilities, such as their lack of aggression and competence to lead a military in a national crisis (e.g., Huddy and Terkildsen, 1993), and their underperformance in mathematics and science fields compared with men (e.g., Spencer et al., 1999), a phenomenon known as stereotype threat (Steele and Aronson, 1995). In this chapter, we will first present the classic definition of stereotype threat as affecting womenís intellectual ability, and then focus on possible impacts of negative stereotype consequences in work- and career-related areas. Those impacts may include a hindrance or an obstacle to womenís entering the workforce, choosing a career, and/or advancing with their career.

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