CIC Conference Presentations

See below for summaries of the presentations and posters presented at the CIC conference.

Theme: Stereotypes and Fit

The burden of women’s appearance: How morality, competence, as well as attractiveness perceived from women’s faces affect their chances of getting a job

Dr Michela Menegatti; Prof. Monica Rubini, University of Bologna

We investigated whether morality, competence, and attractiveness perceived from applicants’ faces affect their likelihood of being hired and whether these effects vary as a function of their gender. In two studies, participants were provided with a photo of a female or a male applicant attached to a brief CV. Applicants’ faces (Lundqvist et al., 1998) differed in the level of perceived trustworthiness and intelligence (Oosterof & Todorov, 2008), which are traits related to morality and competence respectively (Leach et al., 2007). In Study 1, respondents were asked to evaluate applicants on morality, competence, attractiveness, and to rate their likelihood of selection. Two moderated mediation analyses revealed that attractiveness mediated the effect of both morality and competence on selection decisions, but this was true only for female applicants. In Study 2, participants were instructed to rate the extent to which each applicant would behave in a competent and moral manner in his/her work, as well as his/her attractiveness and selection likelihood. While only competence had an impact on male applicants’ likelihood of being selected, hiring decisions about females were based on morality, competence, as well as attractiveness. Overall, these findings highlighted that women not only have to be (Moscatelli et al., 2018), but also to appear better than men on multiple judgment dimensions to be hired.

Women’s pursuit of leadership careers – Testing lack of fit theory for organizational recruitment

Tanja Hentschel, University of Amsterdam

Susanne Braun, Durham University

Claudia Peus, Technische Universität München

Dieter Frey, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München


In this paper, we followed calls for more research on recruitment strategies to increase gender diversity in leadership. We build on lack of fit theory (Heilman, 1983, 2012) and argue that women perceive a lower fit and are less likely to apply for career opportunities if recruitment advertisements accentuate agentic (rather than communal) characteristics little in line with women’s self-perceptions. In a pretest, we content-analyzed advertisements and found that advertisements for leadership (but not non-leadership) positions included significantly more agentic than communal characteristics. An experimental studies showed women (but not men) to evaluate advertisements that include agentic as opposed to communal characteristics more negatively (appeal, perceived fit) and to express lower application intentions. Further, only after reading an advertisement with agentic characteristics did women indicate lower ambitions to pursue a leadership career than men. Drawing on real-world advertisements, we confirmed that women rated advertisements perceived to be more (compared to less) agentic more negatively. This result corresponded with the percentage of women who had actually applied for the career opportunity in the past. Women’s perceived fit mediated the relationship between advertisement characteristics and application intentions. Our findings suggest that to recruit more women into leadership, organizations are advised to rely on communal rather than agentic characteristics in advertisements.

Predictors of employment decisions: A perfection bias against women?

Michela Menegatti, Silvia Moscatelli, & Monica Rubini, University of Bologna

Naomi Ellemers, Utrecht University

Research on gender bias has highlighted the role of gender stereotypes, organized around the dimensions of competence/agency and warmth/communality, in hindering women’s career in organization (Heilman, 2012). Drawing from a recent model of social judgment (Ellemers, Pagliaro, & Barreto, 2013), this research examined the importance of different evaluation dimensions – i.e., morality and sociability (distinct from the wider cluster of warmth) and competence – in selecting male and female candidates for one’s organization (Study 1) or work team (Study 2). We also examined the relative weight of competence and morality in predicting actual decisions to hire (Study 3) or retain (Study 4) male and female candidates with identical profiles. Results showed that competence was the most important dimension of evaluation and was the only predictor of employment decisions for male candidates. Multiple criteria were however important for female candidates. Moreover, decisions about female candidates were influenced by the dimension on which they appeared to be relatively weak. These findings reveal a “perfection bias” against women, who are held to higher standards than men on multiple dimensions, increasing their risk of being discarded compared to men as soon as they present a shortcoming on a certain dimension. Findings also suggest that introducing evaluations of moral character into personnel decisions is unlikely to help women make a career in organizations, and in fact poses an additional hurdle that women – but not men – are expected to overcome.

Linguistic Gender Bias in Personnel Selection: The Role of Competence, Morality and Sociability

Francesca Prati, Corine Stella Kana Kenfack, Monica Rubini, University of Bologna

This line of research investigated the spontaneous use of linguistic terms related to competence, morality and sociability in descriptions made by professional selectors evaluating female and male candidates for a high status job position. Specifically, it examined which criterion among the three main dimensions of social judgment would predict the selection of men and women candidates and how gender of selectors influences hiring decisions. Evidence showed that males were primarily selected or rejected on the basis of their competence. Conversely, females were selected on the basis of all the three evaluative dimensions. Interestingly, commitees composed of male and female selectors compared to committees formed by same gender selectors reduced the use of gender stereotypes in evaluating candidates of both genders. Overall, evidence reveals how female candidates are required to display a higher number of criteria to be selected compared to males and that adopting mixed gender selectors forms an effective stategy to reduce gender discrimination in personnell selection for high status positions.

Are women (vs. men) leaders more harshly punished when they do something wrong?

Ana C. Leite and Georgina Randsley de Moura, University of Kent

Women face obstacles in career progression and are likely appointed to precarious and risky positions. But what happens when they reach the top? Ingroup leaders are given transgression credit, but is this the case for women? In Study 1 participants recalled a situation in which a leader did something ethically questionable. Results showed that men were more tolerant of men (vs. women) leaders, more willing to work with them, and perceived them as better role models. Women did not differentiate between men and women leaders. This study suggests that there is a gender ingroup bias when people judge unethical leaders, but only from men. Furthermore, a moderated mediation model suggests that men perceived women (vs. men) unethical leaders as less communal and therefore judge them more negatively.

In Study 2 participants read about an unethical leader (woman or man) who was either described as communal or agentic. Results showed that men judged women leaders differently depending on their traits, so that communal women leaders were preferred to the less stereotypical, agentic women leaders. In contrast, women judged unethical leaders similarly irrespective of their gender or traits.

Overall, results suggest that men are less favourable towards women leaders (vs. men leaders) who do something unethical, to the extent that they are perceived to be counterstereotypical (less communal). When presented with communal (vs. agentic) women unethical leaders, men were more favourable towards them. This suggests that men expect women leaders to abide by the social norms and social roles more than men.



Theme: Understanding Choices

Women's visibility in academic seminars: women ask fewer questions than men

Gillian Sandstrom, University of Essex

Alecia Carter, University of Cambridge

Alyssa Croft, University of Arizona

Dieter Lukas, University of Cambridge

The attrition of women in academic careers, and on the corporate ladder, is a major concern. One factor that can contribute to the attrition is the lack of visible female role models. Especially at early career stages, the availability of ingroup role models shapes women's impressions of whether or not they can be successful in their field. In academia, one common and formative setting to observe role models is the local departmental seminar. We quantified women’s visibility in terms of their question-asking behaviour. From the survey responses of over 600 academics in 20 countries, we found that women across all career stages reported asking fewer questions at seminars compared to men. This impression was supported by observational data from almost 250 seminars in 10 countries: women asked absolutely and proportionally fewer questions than men. Men and women differed in the importance they attributed to different factors preventing them from asking questions, with women rating internal factors (e.g., not working up the nerve) as more important than men. Furthermore, our observations indicated that the gender of the first person to ask a question predicted the gender imbalance in subsequent questions, with proportionally fewer questions asked by women when a man was the first to ask a question. We propose recommendations for increasing women's visibility and suggest that our results are best explained by internalized gender role stereotypes about assertiveness. Implications for women outside of academia will be discussed.

Are women really more risk-averse than men?

Thekla Morgenroth & Michelle Ryan, University of Exeter

Cordelia Fine & Anna Genat, University of Melbourne

Risk-taking is often seen as a personality trait that leads to occupational and economic success – and is strongly associated with masculinity. We investigate whether measures of risk-taking therefore inadvertently focus on behaviors that are normative for men and overlook those normative for women, resulting in an overestimation of gender differences in risk-taking.
In a series of studies we show (a) that behaviors conventionally used to measure risk-taking are all stereotypically masculine despite the existence of many feminine or gender-neutral behaviors which are equally risky; (b) that these differences in normativity are reflected in self-reported gender differences in risk-taking propensity; and (c) that behaviors that are normative for men are perceived as more risky than those normative for women, even when the objective risks are matched. We extend these ideas to the workplace and find little support for gender differences of risk-taking in the workplace overall. However, men are rewarded more for taking the same risks.




Perpetuating inequality: Self-group distancing by senior women is not recognized as bias by junior women but affects them negatively

Naomi Sterk, Loes Meeussen &Colette Van Laar, University of Leuven

Organizational contexts of underrepresentation and experiences with gender discrimination can lead to self-group distancing (SGD) behavior in women pursuing upward mobility (also known as “queen bee” behavior). It is unknown, however, how SGD behavior by senior women affects junior women in the workplace. Moving beyond the senior woman, we investigated how behavior associated with SGD in senior women is interpreted by and affects the junior woman working under her leadership. An experiment was conducted among 168 female students who received ambiguous negative feedback from a male/female leader with SGD (masculine self-representation, denial of continued gender discrimination, endorsement of gender stereotypes)/neutral behavior (2x2 design). As expected, women did not see a female leader as more sexist in the SGD behavior condition (relative to control), whereas they did see a male leader displaying this behavior as sexist. This was fully mediated by perceived intent: A male leader displaying SGD behavior was seen as having less positive intent, which was associated with higher perceived sexism. Women were also negatively affected by SGD behavior: reporting more negative emotions in the SGD conditions than in the control conditions. Furthermore, higher gender identification protected from some of these negative effects among women who had seen a male leader, but not among those who had seen a female leader. The results suggest the importance of considering effects of SGD behavior by senior women on junior women working with them.


Why female STEM students opt out: Gender differences in professional identity formation explain STEM students' future career choice

Ruth van Veelen & Belle Derks, Utrecht University

Maaike Endedijk, University of Twente

While STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) study programs are increasingly popular among female students, the vast majority of female STEM graduates still opts for a career outside the technical sector. Negative gender stereotypes form one important reason for women to opt out of careers in STEM. We argue that these gender stereotypes manifest in STEM students' professional identity formation, and that professional identity can thus explain gender differences STEM students' career choice. We developed a new online tool called the Career Compass to measure STEM students' professional identity content and strength. The Career Compass included 177 traits on five identity domains to measure identity content, and additional questions to measure identity strength and career choice. In total, 743 highly-educated STEM students (37% female) participated. Based on latent profile analysis, 5 professional profiles were identified; from the stereotypical "Nerd" to the "Status Seeker". Compared to male STEM students, female students were underrepresented in stereotypical (i.e., Nerd) professional STEM profiles and also identified significantly less with their future STEM profession. Consequently, female STEM students expressed more uncertainty about their future career and were two times more likely to choose for a career outside the technical sector than male STEM students. These results demonstrate that STEM students' professional identity formation is gendered. This may explain why female STEM students opt out of STEM careers. Implications to generate a more inclusive notion of STEM professions and to attract a more diverse pool of STEM talent to the technical field are discussed.


Theme: Responding to Context

Coping with social identity threat in non-traditional work fields

Jenny Veldman, Colette Van Laar & Loes Meeussen, University of Leuven

Salvatore Lo Bue, Royal Military Academy Brussels

Over the last few decades, research has established that social identity threat can negatively affect women’s well-being, motivation, and performance in non-traditional work fields. Simultaneously, we increasingly know that women are not passive recipients but also often show resilience and actively cope with the challenges they face. Although this has been acknowledged in the field, we are only just starting to understand how these coping processes work and how this affects women’s outcomes. In this presentation, we present research to gain more insight into these processes. This work shows that women in non-traditional work fields are active individuals pursuing multiple goals (e.g., for belonging and achievement) and using various strategies to maintain their outcomes, but which can also incur costs. For example, among women at the Royal Military Academy an experience sampling study was conducted, enabling examination of social identity threat as it is experienced and coped with on a daily basis. Results showed that women coped with daily experiences of social identity threat and accompanying concerns about belonging in the military by distancing themselves from other women psychologically or physically. This daily self-group distancing could not in the short-term protect women’s outcomes, and was generally related to lower daily well-being and work motivation. Implications for understanding women’s career outcomes and decisions in non-traditional fields are discussed.


How Men and Women are Treated at Work: Experiences of Distinctive Treatment and its Implications for Individuals’ Self-Concept and Career Ambitions

Christopher T. Begeny University of Exeter, University of California

Michelle K. Ryan University of Exeter

In efforts to explain why women are underrepresented in certain industries and particularly at some of the more senior levels within them (e.g., within IT/tech, finance), some popular/lay narratives suggest that women may simply have fewer career-related ambitions or less ‘investment’ in their careers compared to men. Despite such narratives implying an inherent difference between men and women, the current research provides evidence that the strength of individuals’ ambitions and investment in their career is largely determined by outside forces—namely, how colleagues treat them during everyday interactions at work. Specifically, we show in a series of studies that when individuals are more frequently asked by their colleagues to share ideas, opinions, perspectives and advice on work-related issues—experiencing what is referred to as distinctive treatment—it helps signal that they are highly valued within their organization. This in turn predicts stronger career ambitions, greater psychological investment in the organization, and has several other positive downstream implications. Importantly, while these processes hold true for both men and women across various industries (indicating that distinctive treatment is key to understanding individuals’ career ambitions overall), there is also evidence that women in some traditionally male-dominated professions are less likely to be treated in these distinctive ways compared to their male counterparts. This disparity in how men and women are treated, alongside evidence that this type of treatment affects career ambitions, may help explain why some disparities persist between men and women in terms of their career ambitions.



Looking for a family man: Women’s partner choices in search of work-family balance

Loes Meeussen, Colette Van Laar, & Marijke Verbruggen, University of Leuven

As women are increasingly pursuing careers, they may increasingly seek family-oriented partners to share the ‘second shift’ of family tasks – a partner choice contradicting traditional gender norms expecting men to priotitize agency and work-orientation. Investigating women’s partner choices, we show that women evaluate more family-oriented men as more attractive (Study 1). This seems to be driven by women’s pursuit of a career and work-family balance, since especially women with high work ambitions who expect balancing work and family will be difficult seek communion and family-orientation in an ideal partner (Study 2). Lastly, women in heterosexual dual-earning couples are shown to indeed experience less work and family conflict and they are more satisfied with their lives the more family-oriented their partner indicates being (Study 3). Together, these findings outline how women may pursue their work ambitions and work-family balance though partner choices. Moreover, our findings highlight the contextualized nature of gender norms and add to knowledge on norm change, showing how gender equality may be fed through romantic relationships.

Through the Lens of Gender Stereotypes: Mommy Guilt and its Consequences

Lianne Aarntzen, Belle Derks, Elianne van Steenbergen, & Tanja van der Lippe, Utrecht University

Recent social psychological research demonstrates that prescriptive gender stereotypes still dictate men to prioritize breadwinning activities and women to prioritize caregiving activities. Less attention has been paid to how internalization of these norms influences mothers’ and fathers’ experience of combining work and family. In this talk, I present a research program in which we address three questions: 1) Do mothers experience more guilt about combining work and family than fathers? 2) To what degree can work-family guilt in mothers (compared to fathers) be explained by an internalization of gender norms? 3) What are consequences of this work-family guilt? Using a variety of research methods (i.e. correlational studies, experimental studies, interview study, daily diary study) we demonstrate that mothers indeed experience more work-family guilt than fathers and that work-family guilt has important consequences for women’s career, well-being, and parenting behaviors. Together, these studies illuminate how work-family guilt might straightjacket mothers and fathers in their gender role.

Theme: Future Directions and Social Change

Standing up for whom? Women’s different motivations to confronting discrimination

Anja Munder, University of Hagen

Julia C. Becker, University of Osnabrück

Oliver Christ, FernUniversität in Hagen

Additionally to contextual barriers, everyday discrimination is an obstacle women face in the workplace and targeted women react differently in the respective situation. One way is to directly oppose the perpetrator - but how are these confrontations actually motivated? While previous research has understood individual coping as motivation to confrontation, being the target of discrimination implies both individual disadvantage and social identity threat. Research on collective action and self-group distancing has also demonstrated other motivations for reactions to discrimination and social identity threat. We integrate these currently unlinked research lines by proposing that discrimination confrontation can be motivated rather differently and consequently can be oriented towards varying goals. We hypothesized that confrontation goals can be distinguished in benefitting the confronter (e.g. perpetrator stops mistreatment), benefitting women as a group (e.g. prejudice reduction), and distancing oneself from women (e.g. demonstrating that one is not a typical woman). Results of three online studies (overall N = 952) provide evidence for factorial and construct validity of a scale measuring these distinct goals of confrontation. Experimental findings from an online study based on this scale (N = 241) show how different confrontation motivations depend on features of the situation: With a higher degree of individual harm caused by the discrimination, confronting women pursued individual-benefitting goals more strongly; lower ambiguity about the group-based disadvantage led to a stronger pursuit of group-benefitting goals. Implications for a more nuanced understanding of confrontation and ways to empowering women to resist discrimination in the workplace will be discussed.

Gender-neutral pronouns as promoters of gender equality in the work place

Hellen Vergoossen & Marie Gustafsson Sendén, Stockholm University

Emma A Bäck, Gothenburg University

Anna Lindqvist, Lund University

The gender-neutral pronoun ‘hen’, has been introduced in Swedish as an addition to the gendered pronouns ‘hon’ [she] and ‘han’ [he]. It can be used in a generic way to refer to someone when not knowing a person’s gender, when gender is irrelevant, or to refer to someone who does not identify with the binary categories.

Proponents of ‘hen’ have argued that the pronoun can reduce stereotyping in language. In previous research, ‘hen’ has been found to have no male bias when people try to determine whose job application they are reading. Reading a job application from ‘hen’, participants judged the person to be equally likely to be female or male in comparison with “the applicant” or “the candidate”, which were much more frequently imagined to be male (Bäck et al., 2015).

In this presentation, I present the first eye tracking data on how ‘hen’ affects the way we imagine others when reading about them, and discuss the implications this has for understanding how gender-neutral language may work as a gender-fair language strategy.

Understanding the role of men in achieving gender equality in the workplace and beyond

Helena R. M. Radke, Maja Kutlaca & Julia C. Becker, University of Osnabrück

We present a research project which examines when and why men engage in behaviours that will assist in achieving gender equality (i.e., collective action). In the first line of research, we introduce a theoretical model which describes advantaged group allies’ (i.e., men) motivations for participating in collective action on behalf of disadvantaged group members (i.e., women). We propose that allies engage in collective action for their own personal benefit, to maintain their group’s status, or to improve the status of the disadvantaged group. We predict that men who are motivated to improve the status of women in the workplace will be more likely to support policies which lead to real and lasting gender equality. In the second line of research, we investigate changes in men’s and women’s support for gender equality. We asked students at the University of Osnabrück to read about a policy the university was considering implementing that would increase the number of female professors to 50%. Participants were told that women currently hold 10%, 20%, 30%, or 40% of professorships at the university. Preliminary data analysis reveals that women (compared to men) were more willing to engage collective action encouraging the university to implement this policy regardless of how many women currently hold this position. We hope to identify why men are less likely to support gender equality so that we can overcome this barrier in future research.

The promise and pitfalls of ‘Male Champions of Change’ as advocates for gender equality in Australia

Renata Bongiorno, University of Exeter

A growing number of male CEOs in Australia are publicly committing to take strong action to advance gender equality and joining an initiative referred to as Male Champions of Change (MCC). As women have traditionally been at the forefront of gender equality advocacy, current understandings about why and how men in top leadership are championing this cause in Australia is limited. Utilising interview data with members of the ‘Queensland’ MCC group, this research examined how male leaders: (1) describe their motivations for becoming involved with this initiative; (2) explain continuing workplace gender inequality; and (3) are seeking to promote gender equality within their organizations. The moral case featured prominently in leaders’ stated motivations for being involved with the initiative, in addition to business case concerns. In terms of explanations for gender inequality, a non-inclusive workplace culture was frequently identified, yet there was also a reticence to discuss specific aspects of workplace cultures that exclude women (e.g., sexual harassment, bullying). Programs to challenge non-inclusive cultures were also rarely mentioned. Instead, leaders primarily spoke about their company’s use of women’s development programs, as well as formal and informal methods to ensure senior men were supporting women’s recruitment/promotion. The findings suggest that while the MCC initiative provides a promising vehicle for galvanizing male leaders to take action to address the problem of gender inequality, important gaps appear to remain in terms of leaders developing the capacity to effectively talk about, and implement programs to challenge, non-inclusive workplace cultures.