Gender stereotypes can be particularly harmful for women and men in gender-incongruent roles and occupations (e.g., women in top leadership, men in early childhood education). In my research, I seek to uncover the subtle, yet powerful effects of gender stereotypes on people’s perceptions and evaluations of others and themselves.
When one woman breaks the glass ceiling, is it broken for all?
Manzi, F. & Heilman, M. E. (2020). Breaking the glass ceiling: For one and all? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspa0000260
This research challenges the assumption that the presence of women in leadership positions will automatically “break the glass ceiling” for other women. We contend that it is not just a female leader’s presence, but also her performance, that influences evaluations of subsequent female candidates for leadership positions. We argue that the continued scarcity and perceived mismatch of women with high-level leadership increases gender salience, promoting perceptions of within-group similarity and fostering an evaluative generalization from the performance of a female leader to the evaluations of another, individual woman. In five studies, we demonstrate that the effect of exposure to a female leader on another woman’s evaluations and leadership opportunities depends on whether she is successful or unsuccessful (Study 1) and whether she confirms or disconfirms stereotype-based expectations about women’s leadership abilities (Study 2). Supporting the role of gender salience and shared group membership in the process, we show that this effect occurs only between women in male gender-typed leadership roles: evaluative generalization does not occur between women in contexts that are not strongly male in gender-type (Study 3) and is not observed between male leaders (Study 4). We also explore whether there is evaluative generalization between male leaders in a female-typed context (Study 5). Our results suggest that overcoming gender imbalances in leadership may not be as simple as targeted placement, and that having women in high places should not induce complacency about the elimination of gender bias.
Data and syntax available at: https://osf.io/y37th/
Sheryl Sandberg is officially done as Meta COO. What really changed for top-ranking women during her tenure? https://fortune.com/2022/08/08/sheryl-sandberg-facebook-meta-lean-in-women-leaders-progress/?cg4m9p
Here’s Why Glass Ceiling May Remain Intact Despite Female Leadership https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2020/12/14/heres-why-glass-ceiling-may-remain-intact-despite-female-leadership/?sh=391d7cbe5175
When a woman makes it to the top, is the glass ceiling really broken? https://fisher.osu.edu/blogs/leadreadtoday/when-a-woman-makes-it-top-glass-ceiling-really-broken
Women in high places — An advantage for other women? https://www.spsp.org/news-center/blog/manzi-heilman-gender-success
How do gender stereotypes affect the way we “change our minds”?
Heilman, M. E., Manzi, F., & Caleo, S. (2019). Updating impressions: The differential effects of new performance information on evaluations of women and men. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2019.03.010
In three experimental studies we investigated whether changes in performance would have different consequences on the competence perceptions and performance evaluations of women and men whose earlier performance had been unmistakably successful or unsuccessful. We reasoned that the ambiguity created by new performance information that was inconsistent with previous performance information would facilitate stereotype-based gender bias. The results provided support for this idea. Whereas no differences emerged between reactions to men and women when performance remained the same, differences emerged when performance changed. Moreover, regardless of the nature of the change in performance, in male gender-typed domains women were evaluated more negatively than men: an improvement in performance had a less beneficial effect for women than for men (Study 1) and a decline in performance had a more detrimental effect for women than for men (Study 2). These effects were shown to be moderated by the gender-type of the field. Women were evaluated more negatively than men whether performance improved or declined only when the field was male gender-typed; when the field was female gender-typed, men were evaluated more negatively than women (Study 3). These findings are consistent with the idea that gender stereotypes and the performance expectations they produce can influence responses to new information about men’s and women’s performance.
Manzi, F. (in prep). A change will (not) do you good. The effects of gender stereotypes on the updating of self-perceptions of competence. Preprint available upon request.
In this line of research I switch the focus from perceptions of others to self-perceptions. I address the question of how gender stereotypes and the performance expectations they produce affect the way men and women update their own self-perceptions of competence when their performance changes over time. I predict that when the setting is male in gender-type, improvements or declines in performance will disadvantage women relative to men. Specifically, a decline in performance is predicted to be more detrimental for women than for men – when performance declines, women’s self-perceptions of competence will decrease more than men’s self-perceptions of competence. Moreover, improved performance will benefit women’s self-perceptions less than men’s – when performance improves, there will be less of a positive change in competence perceptions among women than among men. I test these hypotheses in two experimental studies and a longitudinal field study.
Do congruity models of gender discrimination apply to men?
Manzi, F. (2019). Are the Processes Underlying Discrimination the Same for Women and Men? A Critical Review of Congruity Models of Gender Discrimination. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00469
Although classic congruity models of gender discrimination (e.g., role congruity theory, lack of fit) predict negative outcomes for both women and men in gender-incongruent domains, the literature has focused almost exclusively on discrimination against women. A number of recent studies have begun to address the question of whether and under what circumstances men can also be the targets of gender discrimination. However, the results of these studies have so far been mixed. Therefore, the question of whether men, like women, also suffer discrimination when in gender incongruent roles and domains remains unclear. The goal of the present paper is to integrate and critically examine the burgeoning literature on gender discrimination against men in order to assess whether the symmetrical predictions of congruity models are supported. Through this close analysis and integration of the literature, I aim to identify remaining gaps in the research on gender discrimination. In particular, I propose that researchers of gender discrimination would benefit from expanding their scope beyond that of paid work.
More articles on gender stereotypes and fit perceptions
Heilman, M. E., Manzi, F., & Braun, S. (2015). Presumed incompetent: Perceived lack of fit and gender bias in recruitment and selection. In A. Broadbridge & S. Fielden (Eds.), Handbook of Gendered Careers in management: getting in, getting on, getting out. Edward Elgar Publishing. https://doi-org/10.4337/9781782547709.00014
Heilman, M. E. (2012). Gender stereotypes and workplace bias. Research in organizational Behavior, 32, 113-135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.riob.2012.11.003
Eagly, A. H., & Karau, S. J. (2002). Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders. Psychological review, 109(3), 573. https://doi-org/10.1037/0033-295X.109.3.573