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Self-Promotion as a Risk Factor for Women: The Costs and Benefits of Counterstereotypical Impression Management

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Abstract

Three experiments tested and extended recent theory regarding motivational influences on impression formation (S. T. Fiske & S. L. Neuberg, 1990; J. L. Hilton & J. M. Darley, 1991) in the context of an impression management dilemma that women face: Self-promotion may be instrumental for managing a competent impression, yet women who self-promote may suffer social reprisals for violating gender prescriptions to be modest. Experiment 1 investigated the influence of perceivers' goals on processes that inhibit stereotypical thinking, and reactions to counterstereotypical behavior. Experiments 2-3 extended these findings by including male targets. For female targets, self-promotion led to higher competence ratings but incurred social attraction and hireability costs unless perceivers were outcome-dependent males. For male targets, self-effacement decreased competence and hireability ratings, though its effects on social attraction were inconsistent.
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... Gender roles guide and constrain what qualities and behaviors are considered feminine and masculine (Bem, 1974(Bem, , 1981Eagly & Wood, 1991). From early childhood, people are socialized to display qualities and behaviors consistent with gender roles (Bem, 1983;Bussey & Bandura, 1992;Egan & Perry, 2001;Raag & Rackliff, 1998), and learn the social consequences of not adhering to these roles (Bosson et al., 2009;Bussey & Bandura, 1992;Rudman, 1998;Rudman & Fairchild, 2004;Rudman & Glick, 2001;Rudman et al., 2012;Vandello et al., 2008). Moreover, despite continuous socialization pressures, gender role expectations are demanding, making it difficult for women and men to consistently conform to gender roles (Bosson et al., 2009;Pleck, 1981Pleck, , 1995Rudman & Fairchild, 2004). ...
... In contrast to the breadth of findings described above for men, there is a relative dearth of research investigating gender role discrepancy strain processes for women. Yet, women face many pressures and expectations to possess feminine qualities, and experience reprisals when these expectations are not met (Bem, 1983;Bussey & Bandura, 1992;Egan & Perry, 2001;Raag & Rackliff, 1998;Rudman, 1998;Rudman & Glick, 2001). Traditional feminine gender roles comprise the possession and demonstration of qualities related to nurturance and deference, such as passivity, communality, dependence, and attractiveness (Bem, 1974(Bem, , 1981Eagly & Wood, 1991;Eagly et al., 2020;Levant et al., 2007). ...
... Pleck's theorizing fits with research highlighting how people's self-esteem decreases in response to feedback that they have failed to adhere to valued social standards (Leary et al., 2003). Self-esteem also may be a particularly relevant outcome of feminine gender role strain because the pressures women face to be nurturant, passive, communal, and dependent, may motivate women to exhibit internalized self-relevant negative reactions (Bussey & Bandura, 1992;Rudman, 1998). By contrast, the null effects shown in experimental manipulations of context-level feminine gender role strain have often focused on more externalized reactions, such as anger and stereotype endorsement (e.g., Kosakowska-Berezecka et al., 2016;Munsch & Willer, 2012;Vescio et al., 2021). ...
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Social pressures to adhere to traditional feminine roles may place some women at risk of experiencing gender role discrepancy strain, when they behave, think, or feel in ways discrepant from feminine gender role expectations. The current research examines how person-level propensity to experience feminine gender-role discrepancy strain-feminine gender role stress (FGRS)-and contextual experiences of discrepancy strain-feeling less feminine in daily or weekly life-combine to undermine women's self-esteem. After completing measures of FGRS, undergraduate women reported their feelings of femininity and self-esteem each day for 10 days (Study 1, N = 207, 1,881 daily records) or each week for 7 weeks (Study 2, N = 165, 1,127 weekly records). This repeated assessments design provided the first tests of whether within-person decreases in felt-femininity were associated with lower self-esteem, particularly for women who were higher in FGRS. Both higher FGRS and within-person decreases in daily/weekly felt-femininity were associated with lower self-esteem, but higher FGRS combined with daily/weekly decreases in felt-femininity predicted the lowest self-esteem (a person x context interaction). These results illustrate the importance of considering how person-level predispositions and contextual experiences of gender-role discrepancy strain combine to influence self-relevant outcomes for women. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11199-022-01305-1.
... Backlash is often operationalized via the "big two" traits of warmth (or likeability) and competence through which we interpret everyday social behaviors (Fiske et al., 2007). Women are stereotyped as less competent than men, but when they attempt to assert their competence, they are seen as acting in their self-interest and therefore violating the prescriptive stereotype of warmth and communality (Rudman, 1998). Thus, women who advocate for themselves (as one must often do when responding to conflict) are seen as more competent-but less likeablethan those who do not, a social penalty that does not accrue to men who self-advocate (Amanatullah & Morris, 2010;Bowles et al., 2007;Heilman et al., 2004;Phelan et al., 2008;Rudman, 1998;Rudman & Glick, 1999. ...
... Women are stereotyped as less competent than men, but when they attempt to assert their competence, they are seen as acting in their self-interest and therefore violating the prescriptive stereotype of warmth and communality (Rudman, 1998). Thus, women who advocate for themselves (as one must often do when responding to conflict) are seen as more competent-but less likeablethan those who do not, a social penalty that does not accrue to men who self-advocate (Amanatullah & Morris, 2010;Bowles et al., 2007;Heilman et al., 2004;Phelan et al., 2008;Rudman, 1998;Rudman & Glick, 1999. ...
... Specifically, we were interested in seeing how our script affected perceptions of women's likability and competence. Consistent with prior research (e.g., Phelan et al., 2008;Rudman, 1998), we anticipated that women who are assertive (but not dominating or aggressive) in responding to conflict will be perceived as equally competent to men, but as less likable and more abrasive. We consider both I-statements and PFF scripts to be assertive conflict responses because they confront individuals rather than avoid confrontation or acquiesce. ...
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This paper presents three studies that examine how women can respond to conflict in assertive ways that obtain their desired result without harm to their competence and likability, thus minimizing gender backlash. In Study 1, we interviewed 29 experienced women engineers and had them read scenarios of common team conflicts and describe the exact words they would use (and the words they would avoid using) to respond in these conflicts. We inductively coded these responses to develop a positive, future-focused (PFF) script for responding to conflict that minimized gender backlash. This PFF script balances communality and agency by pointing out positives, foregrounding group goals, focusing on solutions, and avoiding emotion. In two follow-up experimental studies, we compared the PFF script to popular psychology advice that encourages individuals to foreground their personal feelings with I-focused statements. Engineering students (N = 289, Study 2; N = 279, Study 3) viewed three conflict scenarios with different response strategies and rated their impressions of the protagonist and the likelihood of a satisfactory outcome. Results demonstrated that conflict responses based on the PFF script led to significantly better impressions and outcomes for both men and women protagonists compared to responses based on I-focused statements. Training students and professionals to use PFF conflict resolution strategies has the potential to increase women’s visibility in situations where they currently remain silent and to improve overall team dynamics in ways that challenge gender stereotypes.
... For instance, prior work on gender differences in assertiveness would predict differences in the likelihood of male and female candidates' asking for referrals and recommendations, which could result in differences in likelihood to receive sponsorship. Women are less likely than men to engage in self-promotion (i.e., discussing one's accomplishments and achievements to impression manage), nominate themselves for awards and promotions, and initiate negotiations (Bowles, Babcock, & Lai, 2007;Kang, 2014;Liebbrandt & List, 2015;Rudman, 1998). This hesitance is rooted in women's concerns that engaging in these behaviors will lead to social backlash, a fear that is not without merit (e.g., Bowles et al., 2007;Rudman, 1998). ...
... Women are less likely than men to engage in self-promotion (i.e., discussing one's accomplishments and achievements to impression manage), nominate themselves for awards and promotions, and initiate negotiations (Bowles, Babcock, & Lai, 2007;Kang, 2014;Liebbrandt & List, 2015;Rudman, 1998). This hesitance is rooted in women's concerns that engaging in these behaviors will lead to social backlash, a fear that is not without merit (e.g., Bowles et al., 2007;Rudman, 1998). Extended to the context of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 referrals, female candidates might be less likely than male candidates to ask for referrals and recommendations. ...
Article
The critical role that referrals play in the hiring process, particularly for candidates contending with negative stereotypes and biases, is well documented. However, how those stereotypes and biases impact sponsors, and the effectiveness of the referrals that they provide, is not well understood. Drawing on evidence of reversals of gender bias, we explore the impact of sponsors’ gender and tenure on the effectiveness of their referrals in the context of U.S. Supreme Court law clerk hiring decisions. This is an appropriate setting because success in the application process for these elite early career positions is contingent on having a strong recommendation from a judge with which the candidate has previously worked, making it ideal to study gender differences in the effectiveness of referrals. Analyses show candidates recommended by male sponsors are more likely to be hired compared to those recommended by female sponsors overall, but this dynamic is also dependent on the sponsor’s tenure and the candidate’s gender. For female sponsors, higher levels of tenure are associated with better hiring outcomes for their female candidates only. All other gender combinations do not benefit from sponsor seniority. Possible mechanisms, limitations, and implications for future research directions are discussed.
... Within particular cultures, there are often gender stereotypes (e.g., behaviors, characteristics, or attributes) that are deemed to be more normative and/or desirable for one gender than another [1,2]. Adults in the United States who violate gender stereotypes often experience social and/or economic penalties, commonly referred to as backlash [3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]. For example, women who violate stereotypes by self-promoting on a job interview are less likely to be hired than identical men, while men who violate stereotypes by being self-effacing were less likely to be hired than identical women [8]. ...
... Adults in the United States who violate gender stereotypes often experience social and/or economic penalties, commonly referred to as backlash [3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]. For example, women who violate stereotypes by self-promoting on a job interview are less likely to be hired than identical men, while men who violate stereotypes by being self-effacing were less likely to be hired than identical women [8]. ...
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Gender stereotypes shape individuals’ behaviors, expectations, and perceptions of others. However, little is known about the content of gender stereotypes about people of different ages (e.g., do gender stereotypes about 1-year-olds differ from those about older individuals?). In our pre-registered study, 4,598 adults rated either the typicality of characteristics (to assess descriptive stereotypes), or the desirability of characteristics (to assess prescriptive and proscriptive stereotypes) for targets who differed in gender and age. Between-subjects, we manipulated target gender (boy/man vs. girl/woman) and target age (1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, or 35). From this, we generated a normed list of descriptive, prescriptive, and proscriptive gender-stereotyped characteristics about people across the early developmental timespan. We make this archive, as well as our raw data, available to other researchers. We also present preliminary findings, demonstrating that some characteristics are consistently ungendered (e.g., challenges authority), others are gender-stereotypic across the early developmental timespan (e.g., males from age 1 to 35 tend to be dirty), and still others change over development (e.g., girls should be submissive, but only around age 10). Implications for gender stereotyping theory—as well as targets of gender stereotyping, across the lifespan—are discussed.
... The experience of gender bias is particularly prevalent for women that violate cultural expectations for women's roles and behavior (Eagly & Karau, 2002;Rudman & Phelan, 2008). For example, women in traditionally male-dominated positions (e.g., college professors) or male-dominated fields (e.g., economics) and women that behave in traditionally more agentic ways (e.g., assertive, powerful), are more likely to experience bias in the form of social backlash (Rudman, 1998). This backlash makes advancement for women more difficult, especially for those in male-dominated fields (Eagly & Karau, 2002;Rudman & Phelan, 2008). ...
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Drawing on social role theory (Eagly & Wood, 2016), this paper seeks to understand the nature and causes of gender bias in student evaluations of teaching (SETs) by looking at student evaluations of faculty at two time periods: on the second day of class and on the day after the first exam grade is returned. We seek to understand whether bias exists at the onset of the semester and whether backlash after grading exacerbates any differences. We hypothesized that students would perceive grade feedback more harshly from a female faculty member than a male faculty member due to role congruency expectations of communality in women. The results indicate limited evidence for gender bias at the onset of the semester (the second day of class) and strong evidence for bias against female faculty after the first exam grade is received. This work advances our understanding of when bias develops within the semester and why it may occur. The findings of this study should be of interest to administrators and human resource personnel by ultimately aiding their ability to better manage gender bias in performance evaluations.
... Therefore, this reduces the presence of meaning for adolescent athletes and makes it difficult for them to maintain a higher level of mental toughness. The finding that male adolescents are superior to female adolescents in their belief in a just world, meaning in life, and mental toughness may be attributed to the fact that female adolescents are more modest when evaluating themselves (Rudman, 1998). In addition, in current society, the competitive sports context is often associated with masculinity (Clément-Guillotin and Fontayne, 2011). ...
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Mental toughness is an essential component of adolescent athletes' athletic careers and lives. Evidence supports the positive effect of belief in a just world on individual psychological development, but the relationship between belief in a just world and mental toughness of adolescents has not been tested. In order to determine the influencing factors of mental toughness and explore effective strategies for improving adolescent athletes' mental toughness, this study introduced just world and life meaning theories to explore the relationship between belief in a just world, meaning in life (search for meaning/presence of meaning), and mental toughness. Based on the data of 1,544 adolescent athletes from Yantai and Qingdao in Shandong Province, China, we tested a parallel mediation model that considered the search for meaning and presence of meaning as mediators. The results were predicted as follows: there is a significant positive correlation between belief in a just world and mental toughness, while the relationship between belief in a just world and mental toughness was partially mediated by the search for meaning and the presence of meaning in life. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the presence of meaning played a more influential role than the search for meaning. The results suggest that belief in a just world is connected to the mental toughness of adolescent athletes via the meaning in life. Therefore, maintaining and promoting the level of belief in a just world and enhancing the sense of meaning in life may be an effective strategy to develop the mental toughness of adolescent athletes. The findings of this study can help develop the mental toughness of adolescent athletes and help them maintain a high level of subjective and objective performance under the pressure of training and competition, providing practical guidance for coaches and administrators in the training of adolescent athletes.
... It might be that women's actual or perceived inability to negotiate better salary packages into the discretionary grade points is the cause (Dittrich et al., 2014). It is well known that negotiation is a complex skill that is deeply ingrained in societal gender roles (Bowles & Babcock, 2013); women are less likely to be well-evaluated when they initiate negotiations (Bowles et al., 2005) and more likely to receive backlash (Amanatullah & Tinsley, 2013;Dannals et al, 2021;Rudman, 1998;Williams & Tiedens, 2016) which may serve to discourage them. ...
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Academic studies of gender pay gaps within higher education institutions have consistently found pay differences. However, theory on how organisation-level factors contribute to pay gaps is underdeveloped. Using a framework of relational inequalities and advanced quantitative analysis, this paper makes a case that gender pay gaps are based on organisation-level interpretations and associated management practices to reward ‘merit’ that perpetuate inequalities. Payroll data of academic staff within two UK Russell Group universities ( N = 1,998 and 1,789) with seeming best-practice formal pay systems are analysed to determine causes of gender pay gaps. We find marked similarities between universities. Most of the variability is attributed to factors of job segregation and human capital, however we also delineate a set of demographic characteristics that, when combined, are highly rewarded without explanation. Based on our analysis of the recognition of ‘merit,’ we extend theoretical explanations of gender pay gap causes to incorporate organisation-level practices.
... Self-promotion is usually labeled a "self-focused" strategy, whereas ingratiation is classified as an "other-focused" strategy (Bolino et al., 2008;Zhao & Liden, 2011). Empirical studies have found that self-promotion can make target individuals perceive another person as being competent (Rudman, 1998), whereas ingratiation is effective in improving or maintaining good interpersonal relationships (Liu et al., 2009). Some scholars argue that impression management can be categorized into automatic or controlled processes (Peck & Hogue, 2018). ...
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The identification of the factors that facilitate employee inclusion in the workplace is of great importance to both scholars and practitioners. However, our knowledge of the antecedents of perceived workplace inclusion is limited to employee demographic backgrounds and workplace contextual factors according to social identity theory or social exchange theory, neglecting the fact that perceived inclusion develops from the interactions between the individual employee and the environment. This study aims to offer a new account based on the person-environment (P-E) interaction perspective. Using two waves of data on 306 employees, we find that both person-organization (P-O) supplementary fit and P-O complementary fit are positively associated with employees’ perceived inclusion. Furthermore, two impression management strategies—self-promotion and ingratiation—separately moderate these effects. These conclusions enrich the literature on perceived workplace inclusion from the perspectives of P-E interactions and motivational behaviors.
... Violations of the prescriptions of gender roles are associated with backlash (for discussion, Rudman & Glick, 2012). Relative to genderconforming women, women who display stereotypically masculine qualities (e.g., agency) are disliked and perceived as deficient (Rudman, 1998), perceived as less socially skilled and hirable (Rudman & Glick, 1999, 2001, less respected and admired by subordinates (for review, see Vial, Napier, & Brescoll, 2016), and more frequent targets of social and economic punishments (Rudman & Fairchild, 2004;Yoder & Schleicher, 1996). Likewise, compared to gender-conforming men, men who display stereotypically feminine characteristics are often bullied via homophobic or misogynistic name-calling (Parry, 2015;Pascoe, 2007;Reigeluth & Addis, 2016), lose social power (Gartzia & Baniandrés, 2016), are perceived as worse leaders (Bartol & Butterfield, 1976), and are targets of physical abuse (Pascoe, 2007). ...
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The present work examined whether men's and women's gender-identities and experiences of gender threats influenced their self-images. Findings across two studies (N = 567) revealed that masculinity in men appears to be more precarious than femininity is in women, but when similarly threatened in a given situation both men's and women's anger predicted their construction of gender compensatory self-images. Specifically, in Study 1, participants' definition of the self in terms of gender ingroup (vs. outgroup) traits (a) positively predicted the gender stereotypicality of men's and women's actual photographs and women's constructed self-images, but (b) negatively predicted the gender stereotypicality of men's self-images. Men whose self definitions least strongly prioritized gender ingroup (over outgroup) traits generated the most gender stereotypic self-images, as rated by independent judges. In addition, in Study 2, after being led to believe that they performed like average members of their gender outgroup (i.e., threat condition) on a gender knowledge test, men expressed more public discomfort and were angrier than women. Gender threat (vs. assurance) also indirectly predicted the generation of more gender stereotypic self-images for men, but not women; this effect was significant via serial mediation, through public discomfort and anger. However, extending prior findings, anger (but not public discomfort) was significantly associated with and predicted the construction of feedback contradicting self-images similarly. We discuss the implications of these findings for theory and research on gender-identity, self-image, and compensatory gender threat responses.
Article
Are competent actors still trusted when they promote themselves? The answer to this question could have far-reaching implications for understanding trust production in a variety of economic exchange settings in which ability and impression management play vital roles, from succeeding in one’s job to excelling in the sales of goods and services. Much social science research assumes an unconditional positive impact of an actor’s ability on the trust placed in that actor: in other words, competence breeds trust. In this report, however, we challenge this assumption. Across a series of experiments, we manipulated both the ability and the self-promotion of a trustee and measured the level of trust received. Employing both online laboratory studies ( n = 5,606) and a field experiment ( n = 101,520), we find that impression management tactics (i.e., self-promotion and intimidation) can substantially backfire, at least for those with high ability. An explanation for this effect is encapsuled in attribution theory, which argues that capable actors are held to higher standards in terms of how kind and honest they are expected to be. Consistent with our social attribution account, mediation analyses show that competence combined with self-promotion decreases the trustee’s perceived benevolence and integrity and, in turn, the level of trust placed in that actor.
Chapter
Research on gender and nonverbal behavior has often focused on sex differences in using nonverbal cues. A conclusion one might draw is that if women would simply adopt the culturally recognized male patterns, they would reap the same rewards. But would they? In this chapter we look at men and women presenting the same nonverbal authority signal, and examine its power to confer leadership status on the two sexes equally.
Article
Two issues were explored: (a) which impression management (IM) tactics applicants use during actual interviews and (b) whether there is a relationship between applicants' IM tactics and their interview outcomes. The study also examined convergence across different methods and raters when measuring IM. Postinterview survey measures were obtained from applicants and interviewers regarding applicant IM behavior during a specific interview; in addition, a subset (n = 24) of interviews was audiotaped and analyzed for the presence of IM. Analyses revealed low to moderate convergence across methods and raters, suggesting that IM tactics may be multidimensional constructs. Across methods and raters, there was consistent evidence of greater applicant self-promotion than ingratiation. Similarly, IM tactics significantly predicted interviewers' evaluations and whether applicants later obtained site visits. Implications for future research are discussed.
Chapter
This chapter presents an integrated understanding of various impression formation processes. The chapter introduces a model of impression formation that integrates social cognition research on stereotyping with traditional research on person perception. According to this model, people form impressions of others through a variety of processes that lie on a continuum reflecting the extent to that the perceiver utilizes a target's particular attributes. The continuum implies that the distinctions among these processes are matters of degree, rather than discrete shifts. The chapter examines the evidence for the five main premises of the model, it is helpful to discuss some related models that raise issues for additional consideration. The chapter discusses the research that supports each of the five basic premises, competing models, and hypotheses for further research. The chapter concludes that one of the model's fundamental purposes is to integrate diverse perspectives on impression formation, as indicated by the opening quotation. It is also designed to generate predictions about basic impression formation processes and to help generate interventions that can reduce the impact of stereotypes on impression formation.
Article
This paper examines the impact of women's proportional representation in the upper echelons of organizations on hierarchical and peer relationships among professional women at work. I propose that social identity is the principal mechanism through which the representation of women influences their relationships. Both quantitative and qualitative analyses of interview and questionnaire data are used to compare women's same-sex relationships in firms with relatively low and high proportions of senior women. Compared with women in firms with many senior women, women in firms with few senior women were less likely to experience common gender as a positive basis for identification with women, less likely to perceive senior women as role models with legitimate authority, more likely to perceive competition in relationships with women peers, and less likely to find support in these relationships. These results challenge person-centered views about the psychology of women's same-sex work relationships and suggest that social identity may link an organization's demographic composition with individuals' workplace experiences.