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Module 11: Gender Through an Industrial-Organizational Lens

3rd edition as of August 2023


Module Overview

In this module, we will focus on women’s experiences in the workplace. We will first look at the ways in which career goals may differ between men and women, and why differences in career goals exist. We will then take a look at equality in the workplace. Do women and men obtain the same experiences and pay? Do women have specific barriers that men do not in the workplace? Finally, we will examine how women try to balance work and family roles/obligations.


Module Outline


Module Learning Outcomes

  • Outline the varying goals that men and women may have regarding occupations and careers and clarify how sex-typing and sex-roles impact those goals.
  • Explain how equal or unequal the workplace is for women and men.
  • Outline the various obstacles women face in the workplace.
  • Clarify how women balance work and families to include risks and benefits.


11.1. Occupational Goals


Section Learning Objectives

  • Define sex-typing.
  • Clarify how sex-typing impacts career goals for men and women.
  • Define self-efficacy and clarify how self-efficacy may impact career choices.


11.1.1. Sex Typing and Career Choice

Sex-typing is when occupations are segregated into gender-typical categories, based on the belief that men and women are more suited for particular jobs. For example, jobs such as engineering, mechanics, and emergency response are largely considered masculine jobs and are male-typical whereas jobs such as teaching, service-related jobs, and nursing are largely considered feminine jobs that are female-typical. Most research shows this happens frequently.

Parents strongly impact children’s perceptions of occupations and contribute to early sex-typing. In a study by Jacobs, Chhin, and Bleeker (2007), parents’ gender-typed expectations correlated with children’s expectations and career choices. Moreover, having a gender-typical career was linked to more job satisfaction in adulthood (Jacobs, Chhin, & Bleeker, 2007). Gettys and Cann (1981) also found that children as young as 2 recognize gender-typical jobs and label traditionally male and female occupations as such. Thus, sex-typing is taught and observed at a very young age.

Gadassi and Gati (2009) studied adults between the ages of 20-30 years old. They found that males tended to prefer more masculine careers whereas women preferred more feminine careers. However, stereotypes impacted these results. These preferences dissipated when gender stereotyped expectations about the careers were made less obvious (Gadassi & Gati, 2009). Etaugh and Riley (1983) had male and female college students read job applications for stereotypically feminine or masculine jobs. Participants were told if the applicant was male or female, married or single, and if they had children. In general, participants evaluated women who applied for sex-typical jobs most favorably, especially if they were single. Participants evaluated women and men, especially single men, more negatively when they applied to sex-atypical jobs (Etaugh & Riley, 1983). Moreover, males and females alike tend to rank male-typical jobs with higher prestige (Oswald, 2003).

For careers that are strongly sex-typed (e.g., teacher = feminine, engineer = masculine), we see both explicit (verbally acknowledged and recognized) and implicit (instinctual, unaware) stereotyped bias. However, for careers that are not sex-typed quite as strongly, implicit and explicit bias does not always align. For example, White and White (2006) found that, although participants explicitly ranked accounting as less masculine, they implicitly scored accounting as more masculine; thus, their implicit and explicit bias did not align.

In general, men tend to prefer to work in solitude, desire more autonomy, and seek high earnings, whereas women value working with others, having an easy commute, positive coworker/boss experiences, and benefits rather than earnings (Helgeson, 2012). Neither male nor female college students deliberately or explicitly make career choices based on future family planning (Cech, 2015).


11.1.2. Personal Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is the extent to which an individual believes they have the ability to influence their life. Higher self-efficacy leads to higher motivation to take on activities and persevere during hardship (Bandura, 2010). Without self-efficacy, individuals may not believe they can bring about change to achieve their goals and may not persevere through adversity.

Self-efficacy is impacted through various factors. Parent and teacher support may impact self-efficacy in career decision making which can impact an individual’s optimism about their career (Garcia, et al., 2015) and adaptability (Guan et al., 2016). Women’s self-efficacy may be more impacted than male’s self-efficacy by supportive role models. Increased self-efficacy also led to women expressing higher intentions for entrepreneurial careers (BarNir, Watson, & Hutchins, 2011).

A recently developed theory, social cognitive model of career self-management (CSM), posits that person-dependent factors (e.g., gender, abilities, race) and societal background impacts learning experiences, which is where information is obtained about efficacy. This influences self-efficacy and expectations about outcomes, including career outcomes, impacting goals, actions, and outcomes. Experiences of mastering tasks, vicarious learning, and high positive/low negative emotion influence self-efficacy which also influence outcome expectations about careers (Lent, Ireland, Penn, Morris, & Sappingtoon, 2017; see the article for a pictorial representation of the model).


11.2. Sex and Gender Equality


Section Learning Objectives

  • Define discrimination.
  • Describe how women may face hiring and pay discrimination.
  • Outline gender differences in negotiating and how this impacts pay gaps.


11.2.1. Hiring Discrimination

As discussed earlier, discrimination is when someone is treated differently based on a demographic variable, such as sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical status/ability/disability, etc. The rate of women in the workforce has gradually increased over the years, and based off the most recent data in 2016, 46.8% of the workforce is female (U.S. Department of Labor, 2010 & 2016). The number of women wanting to work has also increased.

Affirmative action is an attempt to prevent discrimination. Affirmative action policies are aimed to help diminish discrimination against historically disadvantaged or overlooked populations. Affirmative action appears to benefit men more than women in some situations. For example, Ng and Wiesner (2007) found that males applying for female-typical jobs, such as nursing, were more likely to get the job, even when they were less qualified than a female counterpart, whereas a female applying for a male-typical job, such as policing, often needed to show excessive qualification to get the position. Even still, they struggled to secure the position (Ng & Wiesner, 2007).

The difficulty of getting hired based on sex is also known as access discrimination. Accessing the opportunity to work in a particular field can be difficult. We will discuss access discrimination as it relates to the glass ceiling, but it can be seen in other realms as well. For example, less women are typically represented in judicial roles (Helgeson, 2012).

Study after study shows, males are often preferred over females (Zebrowitz, Tenenbaum, & Goldstein, 1991; Olian, Schwab, & Haberfeld, 1988). Research shows that males and females are both likely to prefer a male candidate over a female candidate (Steinpreis, Anders, & Ritzke, 1999).


11.2.2. Pay Discrimination

The counterpart to access discrimination is treatment discrimination. Treatment discrimination is when an individual is paid less or given less opportunity at work (e.g., promotion; Helgeson, 2012).  As it relates to gender, this is when a female earns less than a male, despite having the same position/title, or when a woman is less likely to be promoted than a male coworker despite having the same qualifications and performance. The pay gap, although improved to some degree, still exists and is sizable. According to the data from 2019, women make only 81.4% of what men make (U.S. Department of Labor, 2019). Although it has increased since the mid-2000’s estimates of 78%, this is a sizable difference. The most recent 2019 numbers indicate that women’s weekly salaries, on average, are $812 whereas men’s weekly salaries are $1,005 (U.S. Department of Labor, 2019).

Although the gap has been decreasing, data show that women are offered starting salaries, on average, that are $11,000 less than their male counterparts. The gap is even worse if women are older. Moreover, this gap holds true in even female-typical and female-dominated fields (Ancis, 2017).

There are a few theories about why this occurs. One theory is the supply-side theory. This theory proposes that people have different skills and qualities to offer and differences in those abilities lead to differences in pay. Although this seems logical, it does not explain the pay gap. Even when men and women have the same skill sets and qualifications, women make less than men. Thus, there must be something else that explains a portion of the picture. Demands-side theory suggests the environment or workplace contributes to the pay gap, where the workplace desires females less and pays them less. Both theories might explain portions of the pay gap, however, because the gap is still present even when women are equally or more qualified, the demand-side theory likely explains a larger portion of the pay gap (Helgeson, 2012).

Another reason for the pay gap may be sex typing/sex segregation of occupations. The occupations in which women tend to work are traditionally paid lower than the occupations men tend to work in. Thus, because women work in jobs that have lower reimbursements more often than men, there is a pay gap. Moreover, even when roles are equal across jobs, we tend to think that jobs women hold will pay less. This is known as the salary estimation effect (Dunn, 1996). Thus, we expect women will make less. Men tend to hold this salary estimation belief more strongly than women, and this may be largely explained by implicit biases with gender.

Finally, the “mommy tax” or maternal wall, may also contribute to pay discrepancies. Mothers are viewed as less desirable as employees, and because of this, they receive fewer opportunities. Mothers also tend to work fewer hours and need more time off, leading to less experience. When looking at data from Dey and Hill (2007), women with children (63% pay gap) experience a much greater pay gap compared to women without children (77% pay gap). Women without children were more likely to be called for an interview than women with children in an experiment conducted by Correll, Benard, and Paik (2007). However, fathers were more likely to be called for an interview over nonfathers, when looking at male applicant pools.


11.2.3. Negotiations

Males are more likely to negotiate a higher starting salary than females. Men also have better outcomes after negotiating than females (Gerhart & Rynes, 1991). This starting salary difference between men and women continues to grow. If a man’s negotiated starting salary is  $5,000 higher than a woman’s, and each receives a 3.5% bonus per year, the pay gap will increase to $6000 after 5 years and will continue to increase with each passing year. This is the phenomenon of accumulation of disadvantage – the gradual widening of a pay gap based on an initial salary gap (Babcock & Laschever, 2003). To observe how much this gap can grow, try using this calculator: http://www.easysurf.cc/fsalary.htm.

Different results of salary negotiation may be based on a combination of factors. First, consider gender roles and socialization of women. Women’s gender roles script them to be cooperative, affiliative, and communal, whereas men are scripted to be direct and assertive. Research indicates that women tend to be more cooperative, rather than assertive, in negotiations than men (Walters, Stuhlmacher, & Meyer, 1998). They also may be less likely than men to know their worth and accept less reimbursement. Women also have lower feelings of entitlement, whereas men are more inclined to negotiate a higher salary because they feel they deserve it. Additionally, women tend to fear conflict related to negotiations more than men. In a laboratory study, Bowels and Babcock (2007) found that, in general, participants penalized women more than men for initiating negotiation of pay. Interestingly, males penalized females more for initiating negotiations, and females penalized both men and women. They also found that women are less likely than men to initiate a negotiation if the evaluator in the study was male, but if the evaluator was female, men and women were equally likely to negotiate (Bowels & Babcock, 2007).

There are situations where women negotiate more assertively. One example is when a women advocate for other people, rather than when advocating for themselves (Babcock & Leschever, 2003; Babcock, Laschever, Gelfand, & Small, 2003). Women may also negotiate more effectively if they know they have experience in negotiation, were given more information about the range in which bargaining could occur, and again, were negotiating for someone else. Women were also better at negotiating when the occupation they were negotiating for was most congruent with their gender role (Mazei, et al., 2015).


11.3. Obstacles


Section Learning Objectives

  • Define the glass ceiling and explain not only what it is, but what contributes to the continued presence of the glass ceiling.
  • Clarify what the glass cliff is and the impact it has on women.
  • Explain what sexual harassment is, the prevalence of sexual harassment, and the impacts it has on work performance and goals.


11.3.1. Glass Ceiling

The term glass ceiling was first used to define an invisible barrier that prevents women from being promoted to the highest positions in a company/organization. The barrier exists due to stereotyped beliefs that drive discriminatory behaviors. Despite women being equally likely to be employed compared to men, more likely to hold entry-level positions with college degrees, and holding the majority of higher education degrees (undergraduate and masters), only 14% of top executives at companies are females with even fewer top earners or CEOs at fortune 500 companies. However, improvement has happened since the 1980’s and continued to improve until about 2009, which is when improvement of upward movement in the workplace stalled for women. (Kernodle, 2017).  The glass ceiling contributes to women having lower-level positions, less opportunity for promotion, and less pay.

Companies may wonder if a woman will want to have kids and divide her time and attention between work and her family. However, this assumption is not made for men in the same way it is for women. This mindset reveals that maternity is viewed as an expense by companies (Kernodle, 2017). Women tend to have to work harder than their male counterparts to prove themselves. And, when they do have families, they may struggle to make afternoon/after-work commitments and events, which can limit their networking opportunities, which may then impact their upward mobility. Moreover, because upper-management tends to be dominated by males, women in these upper positions may feel like it is difficult to fit in and may be excluded from informal after-work events that also open opportunities for networking and engaging. They also may not be as able to work overtime, thus, limiting work performance in some fields (Soleymanpour Omran, Alizadeh, & Esmaeeli, 2015).

Women are viewed as affiliative and men as assertive, and this may impact the glass ceiling. Upper-level positions are typically leadership positions. Leadership aligns with masculine-typical characteristics such as assertiveness; thus, traditional leadership qualities are often the opposite of female stereotype of warm, passive, affiliative, and nurturing. Women in leadership roles are often held to higher standard than men as well. If women do not adopt some masculine traits, they may not be respected in their role; however, when they do adopt some of these traits, they are less liked (Ancis, 2017).


11.3.2 Glass Cliff Phenomenon

Alexander Haslam and Michelle Ryan (2005) were one of the first to coin the term glass cliff phenomenon. (2005). The glass cliff phenomenon is the overrepresentation of women being promoted to leadership positions in companies that are underperforming or are severely unstable. Men are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions in high performing, stable companies, whereas women are more likely to be promoted in unstable and underperforming companies. In this way, once women have pushed through the glass ceiling earned a high promotion, they can find themselves at risk of losing everything, teetering on the glass cliff of an unstable company. Some research indicates that women may be put in these roles during crisis because they are good at managing people as well as easier to blame for company failures (Ryan, Haslam, & Postmes, 2007). Placing a woman in the role of leadership during crisis may also signal to others that there is an organizational change occurring (Brukmuller & Branscombe, 2011; Oelbaum, 2016). Females tend to have attributes of warmth and caring, qualities desirable when a company is unstable, whereas men are known to be more assertive and direct, qualities that may be more desirable when a company is doing well. Interestingly, while women readily acknowledge this phenomenon, men may be more reluctant to acknowledge it (Ryan, Haslam, Postmes, 2007).


11.3.3. Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can be difficult to identify. While some sexual harassment may be obvious, other behaviors which constitute sexual harassment may be less so. If a “reasonable” person would label the behavior as hostile, then it is likely considered sexual harassment (Weiner & Gutek, 1999). Moreover, if the behavior is not a choice and is forced on someone, making them uncomfortable, it is hostile (Helgeson, 2012).

There are two types of sexual harassment – a hostile environment, and quid pro quo. A hostile environment is sexual harassment that occurs when a person experiences unwanted sexual communication or behavior from a coworker, boss, or someone else. For example, every time Anna comes into work, her male coworker comments on her appearance and calls her ‘babe.’ Quid pro quo sexual harassment means “this for that”and is when sexual advancements are tolerated to allow the individual to advance or be kept from punishment. This type of harassment often occurs with someone who has more authority than the victim, threatens or asks for sexual acts in exchange for the victim getting some work-related benefit, such as a promotion, or threatens them with punishment, such as a demotion or being fired if they do not engage in the act (Helgeson, 2012).

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone; however, 84% of sexual harassment claims are by women, indicating that women experience sexual harassment more often than men. Keep in mind that not all sexual harassment is reported. About 50% of women will experience sexual harassment in the workplace. On college campuses, 2/3 of students experience sexual harassment (Helgeson, 2012).

The experience of sexual harassment may lead to negative outcomes for an individual’s psychological wellbeing (e.g., increased anxiety and depression), health (e.g., increased somatic complaints such as headaches, and job satisfaction and performance (Helgeson, 2012; Willness, Steel, & Lee, 2007). If an individual has been harassed at work, they may be unhappy and perform worse – they may also be more likely to quit or be fired. The more severe the harassment, or the more repetitive/frequent it is, the worse an individual’s outcomes may be (Collinsworth, Fitzgerald, & Drasgow, 2009); However, even if occurring infrequently, sexual harassment can have very negative impacts on women (Schneider, Swan, Fitzgerald, 1997).


11.4. Work and Family


Section Learning Objectives

  • Describe the stereotype content model and how it relates to stereotypes of women, especially pregnant women.
  • Describe the multiple role theories and the risk and benefits of holding multiple roles.
  • Clarify the unique challenges women may face when holding multiple roles.


11.4.1. Stereotype Content Model

The perception of warmth and competence leads to perceived competition and status, according to the stereotype content model. The various combinations of these characteristics (i.e., warmth and competence) lead to different outcomes. Stereotypes are made from a systematic assessment of warmth and competence in an individual. Warmth refers to how friendly and sincere someone may be, whereas competence refers to how capable and skillful they are. Someone may be perceived as high in one area and low in another, high in both, or low in both. These combinations lead to stereotypes that are associated with emotions and specific behaviors. For example, an individual with high warmth and low competence (perhaps elderly or women that do not get paid for their work) may be pitied. Below are the four combinations that occur in this model (Fiske, et al., 2002).

  1. Admired Group: High in warmth and high in competence. Middle class individuals may be stereotyped here.
  2. Hated/Contemptuous Group: Low in warmth and low in competence. Homeless or low-income individuals are often stereotyped here.
  3. Envied Group: Low in warmth and high in competence. The female CEO may be classified here.
  4. Pitied Group: High in warmth, but low in competence. This group may include elderly people and disabled individuals, as well as pregnant women.

These stereotypes then lead to specific emotions and behaviors. Group 1 brings out active and passive facilitation, whereas Group 2 brings out Passive and active harm. Group 3 brings about active attacking behavior and passive neglect. Group 4 tends to lead to both active helping behavior but also passive neglect (Cuddy, Fiske, & Glick, 2008).


11.4.2. Pregnancy Discrimination

An amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964) protects women from discrimination related to pregnancy or childbirth, defining such as sexual discrimination, and thus, unlawful. This amendment is known as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA; U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2018) and was established in 1978. The act essentially indicates that an employer cannot fire or refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant. It also states that an employer cannot discriminate in other ways such as passing a woman up for a promotion, etc., because a woman is pregnant. An employer must allow all of the same rights to medical clearances and leave as they would to someone else with an inability to work due to medical concerns. Moreover, although not required to be paid, if a woman has worked for an employer for at least 12 months prior to birth, she may be eligible for 12 weeks of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 (US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2018).

Despite this, pregnant women are often pitied and seen as less capable, and discrimination is very common. For example, in 2013, a New York City police officer was set to sit for the Sergeant exam, but she went into labor the day of her exam. Although policies are in place to allow for rescheduled exams due to emergencies, she was denied a retest date. In fact, in manual labor or blue-collar work, women are often pressured to take disability earlier in their pregnancy because employers feel it is too complicated to find appropriate accommodations for them (Chrisler, 2017). Again, this is supposed to be protected under the PDA.

Moreover, because pregnant women are often implicitly placed in the “pitied” group, based on the stereotype content model, pregnant women may be liked but also viewed as delicate and receive over-assistance. They may even be patronized. Men tend to worry more than women about the potential for pregnant women to be irrational or overly emotional (Chrisler, 2017).


11.4.3. Balancing Work and Family

Nearly 70% of women that work also have children and a partner (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010). The role scarcity hypothesis posits that multiple roles leads to negative health outcomes because an individual is trying to spread their resources across too many domains leading to strain. This strain is referred to as role strain and can be due to either overload (role overload) or conflict (role conflict). Role overload is when time prevents or makes it hard to fulfill more than one role; essentially, time is a limited resource, and choices must be made about where to devote time (Helgeson, 2012). Working full time and going to school fulltime may be an example of nonfamily-related role overload. A family-related example may be when one cannot work overtime at work and come home to finish all the laundry. Role conflict is when one role prevents or conflicts directly with the other, or two obligations at once. An example of this would be an after-hours work event and a child’s baseball game being at the same time.

Role expansion hypothesis, also referred to as role enhancement hypothesis, argues that individuals benefit from having more than one role. In fact, one role may actually support and empower another role. The theory posits that there are more gains to multiple roles than there are drawbacks (Helgeson, 2012). An example of this may be that, while at a child’s baseball game, one might network with a company that can alleviate a burden in your current company’s end-of-the-year budget. Or, perhaps a significant other offers a suggestion for meeting at work that ends up proving helpful. Maybe a role as a physicians’ assistant allows one to understand the level of care one’s child needs when running a 103 degree fever. There are more benefits than drawbacks to multiple roles according to this hypothesis (Barnett, 2004)


Module Recap

In this module, we began our discussion by understanding how men and women’s career goals differ and why differences in career goals exist. We then discussed the specific hiring and pay discrimination and inequalities women often face in the workplace. We also took a look at negotiation strategies and skills and uncovered the tendency of women to negotiate less often, and for lower amounts, and the factors that contribute to this. We also took a detailed look at the many barriers women face in attempting to advance in their careers, with a specific focus on the glass ceiling and glass cliff. We then focused our conversation on sexual harassment of women. Finally, we ended our conversation about how women attempt to balance work and family life, and particularly challenges, such as pregnancy discrimination, they may face.


3rd edition


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