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Mindfulness and stereotype threat in social media: unexpected effects for women’s leadership aspirations

Megan M. Walsh (Edwards School of Business, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada)
Erica L. Carleton (Hill-Levene Schools of Business, University of Regina, Regina, Canada)
Amanda J. Hancock (School of Arts and Social Science, Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, Corner Brook, Canada)
Kara A. Arnold (Faculty of Business Administration, Memorial University, St. John’s, Canada)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 15 February 2022

Issue publication date: 4 May 2022




The purpose of this paper were to investigate whether gendered social media images reduce women’s leadership aspirations (via reduced leadership self-efficacy) and whether state mindfulness buffers the effect of stereotype threat on women’s leadership self-efficacy, and in turn, leadership aspirations.


Study 1 (n = 53) was a pilot study designed to test materials intended to induce stereotype threat via social media. Study 2 (n = 144) was an experimental study in which participants were randomly assigned to stereotype threat or control conditions. Stereotype threat was implicitly induced via a fictional Facebook timeline that incorporated gendered images.


Stereotype threat induced via social media predicted lower leadership aspirations for women, which was mediated by reduced leadership self-efficacy, as expected. State mindfulness moderated this mediated relationship in an unexpected way; stereotype threat effects on leadership self-efficacy and leadership aspirations were stronger for women higher in state mindfulness.


It is important to investigate stereotype threat induced via social media to understand the potential damage gendered images may have on women’s leadership aspirations in a modern advertising context. This research shows that indeed gendered images in social media advertising decrease women’s leadership self-efficacy and leadership aspirations. Interestingly, this study also found that mindfulness had a negative effect in relation to stereotype threat. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.



This research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Grant number 430-2018-0737.


Walsh, M.M., Carleton, E.L., Hancock, A.J. and Arnold, K.A. (2022), "Mindfulness and stereotype threat in social media: unexpected effects for women’s leadership aspirations", Gender in Management, Vol. 37 No. 4, pp. 535-548.



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