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Agency and communion: Their implications for gender stereotypes and gender identities



This chapter shows that agency and communion are essential to understanding the psychology of gender. Gender stereotypes, in their descriptive and prescriptive forms, follow from a societal division of labor whereby women tend to be concentrated in communally demanding roles and men in agentically demanding roles. People’s inferences of communal and agentic traits underlying the typical role behaviors of women and men yield gender stereotypes. These stereotypes in turn can enhance or compromise the ability of women and men to occupy and succeed in social roles that demand agentic or communal qualities. To the extent that people internalize stereotypes pertaining to their gender, they gain gender identities by which women regard themselves as especially communal and men as especially agentic. In addition, these identities and related personal goals regulate the attraction of each sex to social roles that afford opportunities to meet communal or agentic goals.
Andree E. Abele qnd Bogdan Woiciszke
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Their implications for gender stereotypes
and gender identities
Sabine Sczesny, Christa Nater, and Alice H. Eagly
Agency and comnunion represent the two fundamental modalities of human nalure.
These dimensions, the so-called Big Two, represent self- versus other-orientation.
As srated by Abele and 'Wojciszke (2014, p. 196), "Agentic content refers to goal-
achievement and task functioning (competence, assertiveness, decisiveness), whereas
communal content refers to the maintenance of relationships and sociai function-
ing (benevolence, trustworthiness, morality)." These dimensions constitute meta-
concepts of human values, motives, traits, and behaviors. As we explain in this
chapter, agency and communion are essential to the analysis of gender stereotypes
and identities and their consequences.
Gender stereotypes: descriptive and prescriptive
Gender stereotypes are broadly defined as people's consensuai beließ about the
attributes of women and men. These stereotypes are culturally shared beließ and
can be descriptiue, pertaining to the characteristics of women and rnen, and prescrip-,
tiue, pertaining to the characteristics that women and men should or shouid not
have (Prentice & Catanza, 2A02). These stereotypes take the form of cognitive
schemas, or sets of beließ about each sex'
To assess gender stereotypes, researchers often have asked participants to rate
a typical woman or man, or women and men in general, on a variety of traits,
inciuding agentic (e.g., ambitious, assertive) and communal (e.g., caring, sensitive)
attributes. Although these direct, or explicit, measures are common, implicit rnea-
sures have produced similar findings (e.g., Rudman & Goodwin, 2004).
Results of such studies have shown that women are perceived as more com-
munal and less agentic than men (Williams & Best, 1982). Men are and should be
assertive and competitive but not weak, whereas women are and should be socially
sensitive and compassionate but not dominant. Although these gender stereotypes
104 Sabine Sczesny et al.
are present in most cultures, an exception is the greater communion ascribed to
men in some East Asian cultures (Cuddy et al., 201,5; Steinmetz, Bosak, Sczesny, &
Eagly, 2014). Also, as generally less salient themes, gender stereotypes include
beliefs about the cognitive abilities, role behaviors, occupations, and physical attri-
butes of men and women (e.g., Deaux & Lewis, 1984; Diekman & Eagly, 2000).
Another aspect of gender stereotypes is their relation to the societal status of
men and women. Specifically, agentic traits associated with men are linked with
high status, and communal traits associated with women are linked with low
status (e.g., Conway, Pizzamigiio, & Mount, 1996;). Finally, although the lower
societal status of women might suggest that the female stereotype is more negative
than the male stereotype, the female stereotype is the more evaluatively positive
stereotype, mainly due to the very positive value placed on communal qualities
such as kindness and consideration (Eagiy & Mladinic, 1994).
Sources of gender stereotypes
In general, gender stereotypes arise from life experiences in a given cultural con-
text. Because the sorting of women and men into different social roles produces
differences in their everyday behaviors, role behavior is a key source of what
people observe and thus represent in their beließ about the sexes. Consistent with
the correspondent inference principle (Gilbert & Malone,1995), people infer the
traits of men and women from observations of their behavior and generally do so
spontaneously. Because most behaviors are performed to enact social roles, the dis-
tribution of women and men into roles underlies gender stereotypes. For example,
observations of mainly women caring for children contribute to the beließ that
women are compassionate and kind.
The specific activities that comprise a division of labor derive in part from male
and female biology - rhat is, their evolved physical attributes, especially women's
reproductive activities and men's size and strength, which can al1ow some activi-
ties to be more efficiently performed by one sex or the other, depending on the
socioeconomic and ecological context. Human biology rhus interacts with the
environment to produce a division of labor.'Within societies, the division of labor
is perpetuated and legitimized through the formation of gender stereotypes rhat
make the contemporaneous division of labor seem natural and inevitable.
Although preindustrial societies offered various divisions of labor, a male bread-
winner and female homemaker arrangement emerged along with industrialization
and urbanizatton in F,urope and North America (Janssens, I997).In contemp otary
industrialized and postindustrial societies, given low birthrates and shortened or
optional lactation, women's reproductive activities are a much weaker constraint
on their activities. Therefore, both women and men typically engage in paid labor.
However, in an arrangement that might be called a neotraditional diuision of labor,
men generally have longer employment hours, and women continue to spend more
time than men on unpaid domestic work (Cohn, 2017). Also, despite a decrease
over time in the sex segregation of occupations in many industrialized nations (e.g.,
lmplications for Gender 105
Lippa, Preston, & Penner, 2014), nren still dominate most blue-collar jobs, many
of which have strengrh-intensive components. Yet, men's greater size and strength
are much less influenlial overall because most occupations now favor brains over
brawn, and technology lessens the strength demands of mosr kinds of physical
Despite these changes, occupations have remained profoundly sex-segregated.
'Women are overrepresented in occupations that especially reward social skills (e.g.,
nursing, teaching children) and underrepresented in things-oriented occuparions
(most STEM fields and mechanical and construction trades; Lippa et a1,, ZOI4).
The proportion of women is also low in occupations that especialiy reward agency
(e.g., top leadership roles; European Commission,2017). Sociologists rhus refer ro
horizontal gender segregation, by which women and men have occupations favoring
different traits and abilities, and uertical segregation by which men are concentrated
in occupations that yield greater starus and" power (Levanon & Grusky, 2016).
Social role theory proposes that everyday observations of rhe differing roles of
women and men provide information from which people derive gender stereotypes
(Eagly, 1987; Wood & Eagly, 201,2). The resulting beließ that women and men dif-
fer in agency and communion reflect essentialism, or the tendency to infer that dif-
ferent human essences underlie difßrences in behavior (Prentice & Miller, 2006).
People may assume that such essences follow from social or biological causes (Ran-
gel & Keller, 201I). These stereotypic beliefs have considerable accuracy ar group
level, that is, pertaining to women and men in general, due to their grounding in
observations of group members' behaviors in their typical social roles (Koenig &
EagIy, 2014).In this sense, stereotypes reflect social reality (Jussim, 2012). How-
ever, they are of course not accurate for individuals who arc atypical of their sex.
The perception of both sexes is influenced by their memberships in social groups
in addition to gender (intersectionality;Shie\ds, 2008). Hence, studying gender along
with groupings by sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, and social class reflects the
complexity of people's lives. lntersectional stereotypes can contain distinct elements
beyond gender stereotypes. For instance, gender stereotypes are closest to those of
'W'hites, whereas stereotypes about Black women are somewhat different from ste-
reotypes about women in general and Blacks in general (Ghavami & Peplau, 2013).
Gender stereotypes continue to receive support from contemporary occupa-
tional and domestic role segregarion (Levanon & Grusky, 2016). Thus, a com-
parison of gender-stereotypical beließ in the United States at earlier and recent
time points has revealed approximately the same agentic and communal beließ
(e.g., Haines, Deaux, & Lofaro,201.6). However, studies have failed to identify
women's gain in stereotypical competence, which presumably has occurred because
of their shift to paid employment and their grearly increased higher education. For
example, IJS survey research by the Pew Research Center (2015) found that respon-
dents beli.eved that women were higher than men on competence traits such as
organtzed, innovative, and intelligent, yet lower on agentic traits such as ambitious
and decisive. Also, research on so-called dynamic stereotype.s has shown a narrative
of.change whereby people believe that women have become and arc continuing
106 Sabine Sczesny et al
to become more agentic, whereas men are more constant in their attributes (Diek-
man & Eagly, 2000). In reality, women appear to have gained stereotypical com-
petence but much less agency given their slow rise into roles demanding qualities
such as dominance and competitiveness.
Consequences of gender stereotypes for occupants of
agentic and communal roles
Over the last decades, researchers have made substantial advances in under-
standing the consequences of gender stereotypes for women in agentically
demanding roles, especially in leadership roles. According to the lack oJfit model
(Heilman, 1983, 201,2) and the role congruity theory of prejudice toward female
leaders (Eagly & Karau, 2002),leadership roles are thought to require mainly
agentic qualities. Stereotypes of leaders and managers are thus more similar
to the characteri zation of men than women and portray leaders as higher in
agentic than communal traits (see meta-analysis by Koenig, EagIy, Mitche11, &
Ristikari, 201,1).'Women thus suffer from a mismatch between the leader role
and their female gender role.
Expectations triggered by this perceived mismatch can have far-reaching conse-
quences for women in leadership contexts. Their overriding challenge is to reconcile
the leader role's demand for a:gency and the female role's demand for communion,
creating a double bind. One consequence is that, as many experiments have demon-
strated, women are censored for violating the proscription against women engaging
in ciearly dominanr behavior (see meta-analysis by'Williams & Tiedens, 2016), even
though such behavior is generally appropriate to leader roles. In general, women
who occupy leadership positions are seen as less legitimate than their male coun-
terparts, triggering consequences such as challenges to their authority and reduced
cooperation (see review by Vial, Napier, & Brescoll,20t6).
As a result of these conflicting demands, female leaders can face a double
standard, such that for comparable levels of performance, they are evaluated
less favorably than male leaders, especially in male-dominated setcings (see
meta-analysis by Eagly, Makhgani, & Klonsky, 1992). For example, in studies
of managers (Heilman, Block, & Martell, 1995), men received higher evalua-
tions than women who performed equally wel1. Except in feminine settings,
women generally must display greater evidence of skill than men to be con-
sidered equally competent (Biernat & Kobrynowicz, 1gg7). Also, as candidaces
for male-dominated jobs, women were less likely to receive positive evalua-
tions rhan equivalent men when evaluated by men (see meta-anaiysis by Koch,
D'Mello, & Sackett, 201'5).
The situation of men in female-dominated communal roles has received less
attention (Croft, Schmader, & 81ock,2015). One disadvantage that such men
experience is a lack of sane-sex role models, a deficit that women also experi-
ence in male-dominated roles. In addition, the incongruity and lack of fit the-
ories outlined above could be extended to consider the mismatch between the
lmplications for Cender l07
male stereotype and communal demands of female-typed occupations. Men are
often penalized when they enact communal behavior or are successful in femi-
nine domains and thereby violate male gender norms (Rudman, Moss-Racusin,
Phelan, & Nauts, 2012).
Men's occupancy of caring roles in the home and workplace can produce dou-
ble standards and double binds that mirror those that women experience in male-
dominated roles. For instance, men who were successful as employee relations
counselors (a female-dominated position) were perceived as less effective and were
granted less respect than successful women in the same job (Heilman & 'Wallen,
201,0). Also, an experiment found that male appiicants for an elementary teaching
position were perceived as more likely to be gay and less likeable (but not less hire-
able) than female applicants with similar qualifications (Moss-Racusin & Johnson,
2016).Infact, men working in childcare can be viewed as a safety threat because
some beiieve thal they might abuse children physically or sexually (Nentwich,
Poppen, Schälin, & Vogt, 2013).
Despite these and other studies suggesting male disadvantage in female-dominated
jobs, recent experimental evidence suggests that men may sometimes be favored
over women for such positions, although more by female than male evaluators (see
meta-analysis by Koch et a1., 2015). Perhaps such data reflect a concern, especially
on the part of women, for integraring jobs in the female ghetto.
Other evidence also suggests that, contrary to the doubie standard, persons
from the underrepresented sex are sometimes affirmatively hired over equally
qualified persons from lhe overrepresented sex. For instance, in a field experi-
ment, excellent fictitious female applicants for tenure-track assistant professorships
in STEM disciplines were preferred with a ratio of 2:L over equally qualified male
applicants by faculty members at numerous US universities ('W.illiams & Ceci,
2015). Moreover, data from actual hiring at 89 US lesearch-intensive insritutions
showed that in the sciences in general, women who applied for academic posi-
tions had a better chance of being interviewed and receiving offers than did male
job candidates (National Research Council, 2010). Furthermore, an organization's
commitment to diversity goals can favor those women who appear ro have the
abilities necessary for reaching the upper echelons of orgamzations. Such women
received higher pay rhan high-potential men (in field studies and experiments;
Leslie, Manchester, & Dahm ,2017).In addition, male vanguards in female-typed
professions can profit from structural advantages that tend to promote them into
leadership positions (the glass escalator; 'Williams, 201,3).
Intersectional stereotypes based on memberships in multiple groups can have
complex implications in difßring contexts, as revealed in experiments varying
such attributes. For instance, Black female leaders were evaluated more negatively
for organizational failure than'White women and Black and'White men (Rosette &
Livingston,2012). However, Black female leaders behaving dominandy did not
suffer from lhe same agency penalty that White female leaders experienced, prob-
ably because Black women's stereotype typically includes agentic attributes (Liv-
ingston, Rosette, & -W.ashington, 2012).
f08 Sabine Sczesny et al
Gender identity
Gender identity is individuals' self-definition as female or male, which is based
on their biological sex as interpreted within their culture (Wood & Eagly, 2015).
'When people describe who they are, most indicate that being ^man or woman or
boy or girl is important to their identity and ascribe at least some gender-stereo-
typical traits to themselves
The most basic aspect of gender identity is an existential sense of oneself as
female or male, which ordinarily corresponds to one's biological sex. Psycholo-
gists have invented various direct and indirect methods for assessing this basic or
existential categoization of oneself as male or female. The most popular measure
adapts Luhtanen and Crocker's (1992) collective self-esteem scale with items such
as "Being a woman [man] is an important reflection of who I am."
At an early age, children typically learn that there are two sexes and that they
belong to one of these groupings (Martin & Ruble, 2010). Awareness of self and
others as male or female, which emerges by around 18 months of age, further
develops as children learn what this ciassification means in their culture. Observa-
tions of other boys and girls motivate children to act similarly by, for example,
playing with gender-typical toys.
As children mature, their personal experiences and observations of others
shape their ideas about the sexes into gender stereotypes, which form one basis
for their identities as they incorporate the cultural meanings of gender into their
own psyches. To the extent that people value their female or male group member-
ship, they tend to self-stereotype by ascribing culturally feminine or masculine
attributes to themselves. The link between selGcategorization in a social group
and the application of the group stereotype to oneself is a key principle of social
identity theory (Abrams, Thomas, & Hogg, 1990). For example, among those
who value belonging to their male or female social category, women may regard
themselves as caring and compassionate and men regarded themselves as strong
and competitive.
To assess this self-stereotyping aspect of gender identity, psychologists typi-
cally obtain self-reports from women and men of their agentic and communal
personality traits by having them respond on rating scales (Bem, 1974; Spence &
Helmreich, 1980). These dimensions of personality thus match gender stereotypes,
and, in fact, were derived from earlier research demonstrating these stereotypes
(Rosenkrantz, Vogel, Bee, Broverman, & Broverman, i96B). Implicit measures
have also been adapted to assess this trait aspect of gender identity (e.g., Green-
wald & Farnham, 2000).
People act on their gender identities through self-regulatory processes, by
which they control their behavior to conform to their identity ('Wood, Chris-
tensen, Hebl, & Rothgerber, 1997). Persons who value their identity as a woman
or a man experience positive affect when acting consistently with their personal
gender standards and negative affect when acting in ways that depart from these
standards. These emotions then guide their future actions.
lmplications for Cender lO9
Peopie incorporate more complex forms of gender into intersectional identities
(Remedios &Snyder, 2015).ln addition, not everyone is strongly gender-identified,
and instead some people completely reject gender distinctions (genderqueer). Fur-
thermore, even though gender identity usually matches biological sex (cisgender),
variations exist, with some people transitioning to the other sex (transgender) and
somelimes modifying their biological sexual characteristics (transsexual). Other
people resist internalizing aspects of their gender's stereotype, as some women may
embrace high, not low, agency.
Gender identity related to behavior
Gender identity works together with stereotyping to influence behavior. To the
extent that women ascribe low agency to themselves or are aware of the stereo-
type that women lack agency, they can engage in self-limiting behavior such as
making less ambitious career choices (Heilman, 2012). Mere awareness of others'
stereotype-based expectations can produce stereotype threat that impairs their
performance (see review by Hoyt & Murphy, 2016). Many studies have shown that
individuals whose identities are threatened in a particular evaluative context can
suffer from impaired performance. Being especially identified with one's gender
increases vulnerability to such performance effects because the pertinent stereo-
type is personally relevant (e.g., Schmader,2002).
'Women can experience stereotype threat when attempting leadership. In an
experimental demonstralion, students viewed television commercials featuring
female-stereotypic (vs. neutral) content (Davies, Spencer, & Steele, 2005). 'Women,
but not men, exposed to the female-stereotypic portrayals subsequently expressed
less preference for a leadership role than a no-leadership role. Chronic threats of
this type can have profound impiications for women's identities in male-dominated
contexts (Pronin, Steele, & Ross, 2004).In such situations, women may engage
in identity bfurcation, by which they prioritize their identity in the domain being
evaluated (e.g., leadership, mathematics) and reject aspects of typical feminine iden-
tity that could threaten their domain competence (e.g., planning to have children).
This reaction seems to be a high price to pay for maintaining a sense of domain
competence. Also, female leaders' worry that others think that women have trouble
exerting authority can cause them to falter, lose confidence, and even to withdraw
(Hoyt & Murphy, 201.6).
Experimental research has related gender identities to various outcomes.
'Women perceived themselves as less suitable for an advertised leadership position
than men, but the candidates' agentic gender identity related more strongly to
their self-ascribed fit with the leadership position than their sex (Bosak & Sczesny,
2008). Furthermore, women working in collaboration with men were unwilling
to take an equal amount of credit for successful joint outcomes (Haynes & Heil-
man,2013), presumably because of their less self-assertive identities as well as oth-
ers' beließ that women should be modest.
1 1O Sabine Sczesny et al
Gender stereotypes and gender identities can complicate men's performances
as well. Stereotype threat can undermine men in communal roles, given, for
example, the stereotype that men are deficient in social skills. In an experiment
in which male participants learned that a test measured social sensitivity and that
women generally scored better on this test, these men performed worse than men
who had not been alerted to this female-favoring stereotype (Koenig & Eagly,
2005). 'Women, in contrast, were less affected by this information, performing
non-significantly better when exposed to the female superiority message. In
fact, men may be especially vulnerable to threat in such situations according to
the argument that male gender identity, or manhood, is a precarious social status
that is difficult to achieve and needs to be confirmed through visible actions
(Vandello & Bosson,2013). Therefore, as experinlents have shown, men may be
more anxious than women to guard and confirm their gender identity, moti-
vating agentic behaviors and restraining communal behaviors. The enhancement
of agentic behavior occurred when threats to men's masculinity increased their
aggression (Bosson, Vandello, Burnaford, -Weaver, & Arzu 'Wasti, 2009) and the
harassment of women (Maass, Cadinu, Guarnieri, & Grasselli, 2003). Specifically,
threats to men's masculinity increased their aggression and harassing behavior
toward women. Threatening men by informing them that they had low (vs. high)
testosterone caused them [o express more traditronal attitudes toward parenting
and less support for gender equality and collective egalitarian action (Kosakowska-
Berezecka et al., 201.6).
Other research has tested predictions about gender identity in natural sertings.
In general, agentic identity predicted sellassertive outcomes such as career suc-
cess (e.g., Abele, 2003; Evers & Sieverdtng,20l,4). Communal identity predicted
relational outcomes such as involvement in family roles (e.g., Abele, 2003) and
satisfaction in close relationships (e.g., Steiner-Pappalardo & Gurung, 2002). In
longitudinal research, such outcomes manifested even 10 years after the initial
assessment of gender identity (Abele & Spurk, 201,1).
Despire societal changes in recent years, apparently the communal and agen-
tic gender identities of women and men have converged only a small amount
between 1974 and 201.2, mainly by women viewing themselves as slightly more
agentic than in earlier years (see meta-analysis by Donnelly & Twenge, 2017).
An initial tendency for women's agency to increase sharply during this period
then faded, to produce only a smali increase overali. Given little overall change
in men's agency or men's or women's communion, sex differences in agentic
and communal gender identities have remained substantial: d:012 for greater
communion in women and d: 0.55 for greatet agency in men. This phenom-
enon should not be surprising, given the persistence of agentic and communal
stereotypes that we noted earlier and the striking segregation of occupational and
domestic roles that continues to fuel these stereotypes. Such findings suggest that
gender, understood in terms of agency and communion, has so far not yielded
much in response to changes in women's roles or to the ongoing challenges to
the gender binary.
lmplications for Cender 111
The Big Two - agency and communion - are overriding themes in psychological
gender research. Social scientists, especially psychologists, have widely adopted
these concepts to describe gender stereotypes and gender identity and their con-
sequences for behavior. Refleccing psychologists' idea that masculine stereotypes
have. served largely as negative forces slowing women's attainment of gender
equality, it seemed that change in women's roles would boost their agency. Indeed,
women more often complete higher education, have taken up paid work and
entered many higher status occupational roles. 'What many scholars of gender have
missed is the preservation of the agency-communion divide in social roles, despite
these changes. Women remain concentrated primarily in communally demanding
occupations. In addition, women's entry into agentically demanding occupations
such as management and law has triggered internai resegregation. 'Women are
underrepresented in the subareas of these professions regarded as more agenti-
cally demanding (e.g., top leadership roles in corporations and government) and
overrepresented in the subareas regarded as more communally demanding (e.g.,
human resources management; Levanon & Grusky, 201,6).In addition, men have
shown little movement into female-dominated roles, either in the workplace or
in families (Croft et a1., 201,5). This neotraditional division of labor perpetuates
gender-stereotypical beliefs about agency and communion as well as matching sex
differences in gender identity.
Ilnderstanding of these phenomena could be furthered by information from a
broader range of cultures. Although some researchers have incorporated data from
many nations (e.g.,'Wiliiams & Best, 1982), the majority of studies come mainly from
'Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic cultures (Henrich, Heine, &
Norenzayan,2010), with the United States being decidedly overrepresenled.
As another limitation, theoretical and empirical work on agency and com-
munion has often been restricted to a binary view that neglects the intersections
of gender with other group memberships. Also neglected are increasing trends
toward gender and sexual fluidity. Future research should expand these themes to
enlarge the understanding of gender in its varied, contemporary manifestations.
Another emerging theme is that the Big Tiwo sometimes decompose into three
or four components. For example, agency sometimes has two components, asser-
tiyeness and competence, and communion also can have two componenls, warmth/
sociability and moralily (see Abele et a1.,201,6). The assertiveness/competence dif-
ferentiation is important to gender stereotypes because, as we have suggested,
contemporary stereotypes portray wonen as less assertive than men but not neces-
sarily less competent.
In conclusion, psychologists have made remarkable progress in understanding
the phenomena of gender. Nevertheless, in addition to remedying deficits we
noted in cuitural breadth, intersectionality, and subcomponents of agency and
communion, psychologists of gender should reach beyond discipiinary bound-
aries to take into account the important research conducted by sociologists and
112 Sabine Sczesny et al
economists as well as by neuroscientists and other biologically-oriented research-
ers. Current knowledge, enhanced by the new directions that we recommend,
should favor the development of policies and interventions that advance equal
opportunities for women and men.
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... We compare these contemporary gender meanings to those of the PAQ and BSRI. We then isolate the meanings that characterize men and women and group them into categories that previous research indicates distinguishes men from women, such as agency, communion, and competence (Ellemers, 2018;Koenig & Eagly, 2014;Sczesny et al., 2019). ...
... Studies find that men are viewed as more agentic and competent than women, and women are viewed as more communal than men (Ellemers, 2018;Koenig & Eagly, 2014;Sczesny et al., 2019). Agency involves free, independent, and goal-directed actions. ...
... Words that describe men and women may reflect their different roles in society (Eagly et al., 2004;Sczesny et al., 2019). Both identity theory and social role theory maintain that people observe the everyday behaviors of men and women in different roles, and based on these observations, develop a vocabulary of how to characterize them (Eagly et al., 2004;Sczesny et al., 2019). ...
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To measure gender identity in past research, identity theorists have used the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ). Other researchers studying gender identity have used either the PAQ or Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI). Both the PAQ and BSRI are classic gender scales that emerged 40+ years ago to measure gender meanings in American culture. At issue is whether these scales continue to reflect current gender meanings in American society. We investigate this by gathering contemporary meanings on men and women from a racially diverse group of over 900 U.S. young adults at two universities. We follow measurement procedures outlined in identity theory to measure gender meanings (Burke & Tully, Social Forces, 55(4), 881–897, 1977). When we compare respondents’ gender meanings with those in the PAQ and BSRI, words for masculine and feminine characteristics used 40+ years ago are not commonly used today. While we see the common distinction of men as agentic and women as communal, women are now described as more competent than men, and men and women tend to evaluate men more negatively than women. We use our findings to develop a new gender identity scale in which the meanings better reflect how man and women are seen in contemporary society. This can be used in future research to capture gender identity in modern times.KeywordsGenderGender meaningsGender identityMeasurementIdentity
... Despite the increased representation of women in leadership positions over recent decades (Georgeac & Rattan, 2019;Hoyt, 2010), people continue to be biased against women in leadership contexts (Eagly et al., 2020;Koenig et al., 2011). For example, compared with equally qualified women, men are more likely to be evaluated as having greater leadership capability (Bouland-van Dam et al., 2021), competence (Koenig et al., 2011;Sczesny et al., 2019), and agency (Cuddy et al., 2008;Fiske et al., 2002;Foschi, 2000). We refer to these well-established effects, collectively, as gender bias in leader evaluation. ...
... We hypothesize that universal-nonuniversal mindsets about leadership potential shape the extent to which people exhibit gender biases in leader evaluation and selection decisions because of the conceptual overlap between these mindsets and gender stereotypes about leadership. Gender stereotypes about leadership state that compared to women, men are more agentic (Cuddy et al., 2008;Fiske et al., 2002;Foschi, 2000), competent (Eagly & Karau, 2002;Koenig et al., 2011;Sczesny et al., 2019), and capable (Bouland-van Dam et al., 2021). Consistent with past work documenting the prevalence of these stereotypes, we submit that virtually all decision-makers are aware of or have knowledge about gendered leadership stereotypes (Eyal & Epley, 2017). ...
... Leadership capability indicates the extent to which an individual has the skills and abilities needed to be an effective leader given a set of job and role requirements (Bouland-van Dam et al., 2021). Relatedly, competence versus warmth (Cuddy et al., 2008;Fiske et al., 2002;Foschi, 2000) and agency versus communion (Eagly & Karau, 2002;Koenig et al., 2011;Sczesny et al., 2019) are fundamental dimensions of person perception. Competence refers to qualities such as skill and intelligence that are necessary for effectively executing relevant work tasks (Cuddy et al., 2008). ...
Extensive research has documented organizational decision-makers' preference for men over women when they evaluate and select candidates for leadership positions. We conceptualize a novel construct-mindsets about the universality of leadership potential-that can help reduce this bias. People can believe either that only some individuals have high leadership potential (i.e., a nonuniversal mindset) or that most individuals have high leadership potential (i.e., a universal mindset). Five studies investigated the relationship between these mindsets and decision-makers' gender biases in leader evaluation and selection decisions. The more senior government officials in China held a universal mindset, the less they showed gender bias when rating their subordinates' leadership capability (Study 1). Working adults in the United Kingdom who held a more universal mindset exhibited less gender bias when evaluating and selecting job candidates for a leadership position (Study 2). In an experiment, Singaporean students exposed to a universal mindset exhibited less gender bias when evaluating and selecting candidates than those exposed to a nonuniversal mindset (Study 3). Another experiment with working adults in China replicated this pattern and added a control condition to confirm the directionality of the effect (Study 4). Last, Study 5 showed that a more universal mindset was associated with less gender bias particularly among decision-makers with stronger gender stereotypes in the domain of leadership. This research demonstrates that, although they are seemingly unrelated to gender, mindsets about the universality of leadership potential can influence the extent to which people express gender bias in the leadership context. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).
... People stereotype others in an attempt to understand their social world (Ellemers, 2018). Gender stereotypes have been considered as people's shared beliefs about the traits of women and men (Sczesny et al., 2019). A common task in social psychology is identifying the content of gender stereotypes, given that traditional gender stereotypes maintain and reinforce gender inequalities (Ellemers, 2018). ...
... Therefore, people create different images of women and men. In other words, everyday observations of the different roles of women and men underlie gender stereotypes (Eagly, 1987;Sczesny et al., 2019). ...
... Because gender stereotypes are a result of people's beliefs and expectations of women and men in a given cultural context, they may change as the context changes (Diekman and Eagly, 2000;Sczesny et al., 2019). Given the advances toward gender equality and the decrease of the unequal distribution of women and men in different roles (Lippa et al., 2014;World Economic Forum, 2020), gender stereotypes are expected to reflect this change (Eagly and Karau, 2002). ...
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Introduction: Stereotypes have traditionally been considered as “mental pictures” of a particular social group. The current research aims to draw the structure of gender stereotypes and metastereotype schemes as complex systems of stereotypical features. Therefore, we analyze gender stereotypes as networks of interconnected characteristics. Method: Through an online survey (N = 750), participants listed the common female and male features to build the structure of the gender stereotypes. Participants also listed the common features of how members of one gender think they are viewed by people of the other gender to build the structure of gender metastereotypes. Results: Our results suggest that female stereotypes are characterized by a single community of features consistently associated such as intelligent, strong, and hardworkers. Female metastereotype, however, combines the previous community with another characterized by weak and sensitive. On the contrary, the male stereotype projected by women is characterized by a community of features associated such as intelligent, strong, and hardworker, but male in-group stereotypes and metastereotypes projected by men are a combination of this community with another one characterized by features associated such as strong, chauvinist, and aggressive. Discussion: A network approach to studying stereotypes provided insights into the meaning of certain traits when considered in combination with different traits. (e.g., strong-intelligent vs. strong-aggressive). Thus, focusing on central nodes can be critical to understanding and changing the structure of gender stereotypes.
... Gender stereotypes refer to general expectations for how women and men should be, the qualities and characteristics they do or should possess, and the roles they do or should perform (Ellemers, 2018). Gender stereotypes are applied to a broad range of attributes and abilities, including cognitive abilities, role behaviors, occupations, and physical attributes of men and women (Sczesny et al., 2018). One dominant gender stereotype in the academic domain is that women are better than men in language and men are better than women in math (Chaffee et al., 2020;Nowicki & Lopata, 2017;Plante et al., 2019;Steffens & Jelenec, 2011). ...
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Positive stereotypes have been shown to negatively impact targets in individualistic cultural contexts. However, individuals from individualistic cultures and those from collectivistic cultures have different perceptions of positive stereotypes, which may lead to different reactions to positive stereotypes. The present study investigated the mechanism underlying targets’ negative reactions to positive gender stereotypes in China, a country with a collectivistic culture. Study 1 revealed that women who heard the positive gender stereotype “women are good at language” reported experiencing stronger negative reactions (including greater dislike, negative emotions, and perceptions of gender prejudice) toward the perpetrator of the stereotype than women who did not hear the positive gender stereotype. Further, we found that a sense of depersonalization mediated the relation between hearing the positive stereotype and negative reactions. Study 2 revealed that men who heard the positive gender stereotype “men are good at math” believed that the perpetrator of the stereotype exhibited more gender prejudice than did men who did not hear the positive stereotype. However, there were no significant differences between men who heard the positive gender stereotype and those who did not hear the stereotype in feelings of dislike or negative emotions. In addition, a sense of depersonalization did not mediate men’s reactions to the positive gender stereotype. These findings extend our knowledge on the interpersonal consequences of and reactions to positive gender stereotypes within collectivistic contexts.
... Men are associated with qualities such as dominance, dynamism, and competitivenessinstrumental characteristics-whereas women are associated more with the expressive and assumed to be sweet, tender, and sensitive (Ellemers 2018;García and Huertas 2001;González and Rodríguez 2020). In this way, men are guided towards the idea of agency (ambition, assertiveness, etc.) and women towards the idea of community (compassion, kindness, etc.) (Sczesny et al. 2019). Soc. ...
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Over recent years, socio-political discourse has been full of language aimed at reaching gender equality. This is a complex goal that should address the underlying bases of inequality—gender stereotypes that continue to legitimize unequal consideration and treatment. It is also a reality that universities are not exempt from. The objective of this study was to analyze university students’ stereotyped beliefs and look at the differences based on self-identified gender and branch of knowledge. The analysis looked at a sample of 3433 university students (67.9% women), aged between 17 and 56 (M = 18.95; SD = 2.35) and reported low rates of prevalence of stereotyped beliefs, with significantly higher means in men and in engineering students. The survival of gender stereotypes in a population who were born and raised in a legally egalitarian society points to the importance of education programs aimed at university teachers that would give them the capacity to incorporate a gender perspective in all disciplines, especially those disciplines reporting greater adherence to stereotyped beliefs.
Labor market outcomes depend, in part, upon an individual’s willingness to put him- or herself forward for different opportunities. We use a series of experiments to explore gender differences in willingness to apply for higher-return, more challenging work. We find that, in male-typed domains, qualified women are significantly less likely to apply than similarly well-qualified men. We provide evidence both in a controlled setting and in the field that reducing ambiguity surrounding required qualifications increases the rate at which qualified women apply. The effects are mixed for men. Our results point to a way to increase the pool of qualified women applicants. This paper was accepted by Yan Chen, behavioral economics and decision analysis. Funding: This work was funded by the National Science Foundation [Grant 1713752] and Harvard Business School. Supplemental Material: The e-companion and data are available at .
The representation of women in Indian politics has been low and inadequate, with women comprising only 14.4% of the members of the 17th Lok Sabha. Despite numerous policy measures aimed at promoting women’s political representation, the underrepresentation of women remains a persistent challenge. This study seeks to understand the intersection of culture and politics in explaining the underrepresentation of women in Indian democracy. The research explores the civic political culture of women’s political participation. The findings suggest that a change in the civic political culture, through a multifaceted approach, is crucial in breaking down the glass ceiling in Indian politics.
High subjective social status (SSS) is believed to protect health in the current literature. However, high SSS entails social responsibilities that can be stressful in collectivistic cultural contexts. Here, we tested the hypothesis that those socialized in collectivistic societies (e.g., Japan) recognize their high social status as entailing social duties difficult to ignore even when they are excessive. Using cross-cultural survey data (N = 1,289) and a measure of biological health risk (BHR) by biomarkers of inflammation and cardiovascular malfunction, we found that higher SSS predicted lower BHR for American males. In contrast, higher SSS predicted higher BHR for Japanese males, mediated by the perceived difficulty of disengaging from their current goals. In both cultural groups, females showed no association between SSS and BHR. These findings suggest that social status has differing health implications, depending on the relative salience of privileges and burden-producing responsibilities in different cultural contexts.
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Agency (A) and communion (C) are fundamental content dimensions. We propose a facet-model that differentiates A into assertiveness (AA) and competence (AC) and C into warmth (CW) and morality (CM). We tested the model in a cross-cultural study by comparing data from Asia, Australia, Europe, and the USA (overall N = 1.808). Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses supported our model. Both the two-factor model and the four-factor model showed good fit indices across countries. Participants answered additional measures intended to demonstrate the fruitfulness of distinguishing the facets. The findings support the model's construct validity by positioning the fundamental dimensions and their facets within a network of self-construal, values, impression management, and the Big Five personality factors: In all countries, A was related to independent self-construal and to agentic values, C was related to interdependent self-construal and to communal values. Regarding the facets, AA was always related to A values, but the association of AC with A values fell below our effect size criterion in four of the five countries. A (both AA and AC) was related to agentic impression management. However, C (both CW and CM) was neither related to communal nor to agentic impression management. Regarding the Big Five personality factors, A was related to emotional stability, to extraversion, and to conscientiousness. C was related to agreeableness and to extraversion. AA was more strongly related to emotional stability and extraversion than AC. CW was more strongly related to extraversion and agreeableness than CM. We could also show that self-esteem was more related to AA than AC; and that it was related to CM, but not to CW. Our research shows that (a) the fundamental dimensions of A and C are stable across cultures; and (b) that the here proposed distinction of facets of A and C is fruitful in analyzing self-perception. The here proposed measure, the AC-IN, may be a useful tool in this research area. Applications of the facet model in social perception research are discussed.
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The Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI) is one of Sandra Bem’s most notable contributions to feminist psychology, measuring an individual’s identification with traditionally masculine and feminine qualities. In a cross-temporal meta-analysis of U.S. college students’ scores on the BSRI (34 samples, N = 8,027), we examined changes in ratings on the Bem masculinity (M) and femininity (F) scales since the early 1990s. Additional analyses used data collected in a previous meta-analysis (Twenge 1997) to document changes since the BSRI’s inception in 1974. Our results reveal that women’s femininity scores have decreased significantly (d = −.26) between 1993 and 2012, whereas their masculinity remained stable. No significant changes were observed for men. Expanded analyses of data from 1974 to 2012 (94 samples, N = 24,801) found that women’s M rose significantly (d = .23), with no changes in women’s F, men’s M, and men’s F. Women’s androgyny scores showed a significant increase since 1974, but not since 1993. Men’s androgyny remained the same in both time periods. Our findings suggest that since the 1990s, U.S. college women have become less likely to endorse feminine traits as self-representative, potentially revealing a devaluation of traditional femininity. However, it is also possible that the scale items do not match modern gender stereotypes. Future research may need to update the BSRI to reflect current conceptions of gender.
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During the past 30 years, women’s participation in the workforce, in athletics, and in professional education has increased, while men’s activities have been more stable. Have gender stereotypes changed over this time period to reflect the new realities? And, to what extent does gender stereotyping exist today? We address these questions by comparing data collected in the early 1980s to new data collected in 2014. In each study, participants rated the likelihood that a typical man or woman has a set of gendered characteristics (traits, role behaviors, occupations, and physical characteristics). Results indicate that people perceive strong differences between men and women on stereotype components today, as they did in the past. Comparisons between the two time periods show stability of gender stereotypes across all components except female gender roles, which showed a significant increase in gender stereotyping. These results attest to the durability of basic stereotypes about how men and women are perceived to differ, despite changes in the participation and acceptance of women and men in nontraditional domains. Because gender stereotypes are apparently so deeply embedded in our society, those in a position to evaluate women and men, as well as women and men themselves, need to be constantly vigilant to the possible influence of stereotypes on their judgments, choices, and actions.
A role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders proposes that perceived incongruity between the female gender role and leadership roles leads to 2 forms of prejudice: (a) perceiving women less favorably than men as potential occupants of leadership roles and (b) evaluating behavior that fulfills the prescriptions of a leader role less favorably when it is enacted by a woman. One consequence is that attitudes are less positive toward female than male leaders and potential leaders. Other consequences are that it is more difficult for women to become leaders and to achieve success in leadership roles. Evidence from varied research paradigms substantiates that these consequences occur, especially in situations that heighten perceptions of incongruity between the female gender role and leadership roles.
This essay attempts to contribute to the study of gender and development by developing a systematic theory of the division of work between men and women in the global North and the global South. There is an extensive literature on women's work and development; this literature consists of rich case studies that do not attempt to identify general principles that apply to women's work as a whole. In formal employment settings, women are most likely to be excluded from settings where employers are buffered from labor costs and do not have to utilize cheap labor. In the global North, this means settings that are capital-intensive, where raw material and machinery costs reduce the importance of wage costs in total budgets. In the global South, petroleum lowers the importance of wage costs, promoting male employment, while export orientation increases the importance of cheap labor, promoting female employment. Family firms and female self-employment have their own dynamics, which are discussed.
Why is there so much occupational sex segregation in the 21st century? The authors cast light on this question by using the O*NET archive of occupation traits to operationalize the concepts of essentialism and vertical inequality more exhaustively than in past research. When the new model is applied to recent U.S. Census data, the results show that much vertical segregation remains even after the physical, analytic, and interactional forms of essentialism are controlled; that essentialism nonetheless accounts for much more of total segregation than does vertical inequality; that the physical and interactional forms of segregation are especially strong; that the physical form of essentialism is one of the few examples of female-advantaging segregation; and that essentialism takes on a fractal structure that generates much finely detailed segregation at detailed occupational levels. The authors conclude by discussing how essentialist processes partly account for the intransigence of occupational sex segregation.
Abundant research has documented a gender pay gap; women earn less than men, all else being equal. Against the backdrop of an overall female penalty, we propose that the widespread adoption of diversity goals in organizations creates a female premium for certain women. We integrate the economic principle of supply and demand with theory from the field of strategic human resource management and theorize that individuals perceive high-potential women - who have the abilities needed to reach the upper echelons of organizations, where women remain underrepresented - as more valuable for achieving organizational diversity goals than high-potential men and, in turn, reward them with higher pay. Two field studies (Studies 1 and 3) and two laboratory experiments (Studies 2 and 4) reveal a female premium that is unique to high-potential women (Studies 1 and 2), driven by perceptions that high-potential women have more diversity value than high-potential men (Studies 2 and 4), and larger in contexts where diversity goals are stronger (Studies 3 and 4). Our theory and findings challenge the assumption that the gender pay gap uniformly disadvantages women and offer new insight into why and when the female penalty reverses and becomes a female premium.
We investigated the existence, nature, and processes underscoring backlash (social and economic penalties) against men who violate gender stereotypes by working in education, and whether backlash is exacerbated by internal (vs. external) behavioral attributions. Participants (N = 303) rated one of six applications for an elementary teaching position, identical apart from target gender and behavioral attribution type. Male applicants were rated as more likely to be gay, posing a greater safety threat, and less likeable (but not less hireable) than identical female applicants. Perceived sexuality and threat mediated target gender differences in likeability. Unexpectedly, behavioral attributions did not interact with target gender, suggesting that providing internal attributions may not exacerbate men's backlash. Implications for backlash theory and education gender disparities are discussed.
In an attempt to explain why the gender gap in leadership positions persists, we propose a model centered on legitimacy. When women hold powerful positions, they have a harder time than men eliciting respect and admiration (i.e., status) from subordinates. As a result, female power-holders are seen as less legitimate than male power-holders. Unless they are able to legitimize their role, relative illegitimacy will prompt a variety of consequences such as more negative subordinate behavior and reduced cooperation when the leader is a woman. Subordinate rejection will likely put female leaders in a precarious mindset, and trigger negative responses toward subordinates; such behavior can confirm negative expectations of female leaders and further undermine female authority in a self-reinforcing cycle of illegitimacy. Leader or organizational features that enhance status attributions and/or lower subordinates' perceptions of power differentials may increase legitimacy for women in leadership roles.