Social Psychology of Gender: Volume 24


Table of contents

(14 chapters)
click here to view access options


Page xiii
click here to view access options

Advances in Group Processes publishes theoretical analyses, reviews, and theory based empirical chapters on group phenomena. The series adopts a broad conception of “group processes.” This includes work on groups ranging from the very small to the very large, and on classic and contemporary topics such as status, power, exchange, justice, influence, decision-making, intergroup relations, and social networks. Previous contributors have included scholars from diverse fields including sociology, psychology, political science, philosophy, mathematics, and organizational behavior.

The paradigmatic shift in gender theory, which focuses attention away from the individual and toward structural accounts, has undoubtedly advanced the amount and quality of research on gender as a macro-level phenomenon. However, social psychological accounts of gender have been less frequent among gender scholars in sociology, perhaps due to the perception that studying individuals might reinvigorate sex role and socialization accounts. This concern is especially understandable since sociology as a field has yet to fully incorporate current theories of gender (Stacey & Thorne, 1985; Ferree & Hall, 1996). For example, Ferree and Hall (1996) have shown that many introductory sociology textbooks still present gender as simply the product of socialization, even while examining other bases of inequality, such as race and class, at a structural level. Rather than rehearsing past debates, we argue that social psychological perspectives make a unique contribution to bridging the multiple levels of the gender system, and are especially well suited to helping us understand the ways that gender is achieved through interaction. Understanding gender as an interactive process sheds light on how structural conditions constrain individual choices as well as how structural patterns of gender inequality are generated and recreated. Discovering mechanisms at the micro level, which play an active role in the persistence of inequality, is especially fruitful because they suggest ways by which gender inequality might be lessened.

Early research on sexism presumed the traditional model of prejudice as an antipathy. This research focused on negative stereotypes of women as less competent than men and hostility toward gender equality. More recently, sexism has been revealed to have a “benevolent” component; although it reflects positive beliefs about women, it also supports gender inequality by implying that women are weaker than men. In addition, although disconfirming stereotypes should provide women with a means of thwarting sex discrimination, recent research shows that even ambitious and successful women are punished for violating prescriptive stereotypes that assign them to subordinate roles.

This chapter focuses on the implications of both the descriptive and prescriptive aspects of gender stereotypes for women in the workplace. Using the Lack of Fit model, we review how performance expectations deriving from descriptive gender stereotypes (i.e., what women are like) can impede women's career progress. We then identify organizational conditions that may weaken the influence of these expectations. In addition, we discuss how prescriptive gender stereotypes (i.e., what women should be like) promote sex bias by creating norms that, when not followed, induce disapproval and social penalties for women. We then review recent research exploring the conditions under which women experience penalties for direct, or inferred, prescriptive norm violations.

I describe the shifting standards model of stereotyping and explain the implications of this model for organizational decisions. I present research showing that the standards one sets for inferring competence and incompetence affect important organizational decisions, including short listing, hiring, probation, and firing decisions. I also present research documenting that gender stereotypes interact with parental status to affect standards set for hiring a mother and father. I conclude by offering recommendations for future research that delineates the subtle ways stereotypes affect judgments of work-related competence.

This chapter examines the tension between interdependence and dominance. First, we briefly review prominent social psychological theories regarding the development and maintenance of status systems. Next we briefly describe how these structures help distribute social power in modern society. We then examine how prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination stem from status systems and interdependence, using the Stereotype Content Model (Fiske, Xu, Cuddy & Glick, 1999; Fiske, Cuddy, Glick, & Xu, 2002). Next, we consider the unique circumstances of gender relations and how they give way to complementary justifications of gender inequality, using Ambivalent Sexism Theory (Glick & Fiske, 1996, 1999, 2001a, 2001b). Last, we review evidence to support our argument that women do not necessarily acquiesce joyfully to the present hierarchical arrangement, but rather guide their choices by their pragmatic alternatives, as dictated by benevolent and hostile ideologies.

Drawing upon Cabrera and Thomas-Hunt's (2006) theoretical framework for the advancement of executive women, we identify gender differences in social networks as an important determinant of the relative perceived credibility of men and women and the opportunities for hire and promotion available to them. A review of the existing research literature on gender and social networks is presented and several potentially fruitful avenues for future research in this area are discussed.

Although cultural beliefs about gender differences in emotional experience and expression are pervasive, empirical evidence does not always bear out those beliefs. This disjuncture has led scholars to argue for the examination of specific emotions in specific contexts in order to understand more clearly the conditions under which gender differences emerge. Heeding this call, we focus on the justice context, reviewing and investigating men's and women's feelings about and emotional displays regarding distributive justice. Using a vignette study, we specifically examine how gender and the contextual factors of procedural justice, legitimacy of the decision-maker, and gender of the decision-maker affect emotional responses of injustice victims. We argue that a focus on the gender combination of actors in a situation moves the study of gender and emotions beyond the assumption that gender-specific cultural beliefs dictate individual's feelings across situations. Our findings show few gender differences in the experience and expression of anger, resentment, and satisfaction. Rather, contextual factors, including the gender of the decision-maker, had stronger effects on emotional responses than gender of the victim. In our justice situation, then, context matters more than gender in understanding emotional responses.

Risk preference theory posits that females are more religious than males because they are more risk averse and are thus more motivated by the threat of afterlife punishment. We evaluate the theory formally and empirically. Formally, we show that the rational choice reasoning implied by the theory leads to unexpected conclusions if one considers belief in eternal rewards as well as eternal punishment. Empirically, we examine cross-cultural data and find that, across many populations, sex differences in religiosity are no smaller among those who do not believe in hell. We conclude by arguing that psychological characteristics are almost certainly crucial to understanding the difference, just not risk preference.

In this chapter we reinvigorate socialization as a theoretical framework for studying gender and sexuality, and we do so by focusing attention on the sexual socialization of young children. We provide an overview of the literature on the sexual socialization of young children. We discuss why researchers should be interested in childhood sexuality, and the role of parents, peers and schools, and the media in sexual socialization. We also address three overarching issues: methodology, the hegemony of heterosexuality, and child sexual abuse. Throughout, we suggest and organize some of the empirical questions that form a research agenda for those interested in this topic.

Two studies investigate gender and status effects on self-handicapping: selecting actions that can impair future performances, perhaps to protect self-image. Gender socialization and status processes suggest two potential explanations for the consistent finding that men self-handicap more than women. If status differences contribute to the tendency to self-handicap, then holding gender constant, those with high status on other characteristics would self-handicap more than those with low status. In Study 1, men assigned to high-status positions selected less study time (and thus self-handicapped more) than did men assigned to low-status positions. Women assigned high status, however, self-handicapped no more than did women assigned low status. Because study time as a measure of self-handicapping may be confounded with confidence or motivation, a second study assigned status and measured self-handicapping by the selection of performance-enhancing or -detracting music. Study 2 also found that high status increased self-handicapping among men but not among women. Both gender socialization and status processes may play roles in self-handicapping.

Beginning in 1982, the majority of college students have been women and that majority has increased since. Explanations for the predominance of women in college enrollments and completion include a variety of labor-market factors that might now advantage men less than in the past. Avariety of labor-market analyses show that, while some recent developments may have reduced incentives for men to enroll in college, labor-market explanations alone cannot account for the predominance of women in college. Some of the reduced incentives for male college enrollment point to gender identities typical of young men and women as an important explanation for the predominance of women in college. Preliminary evidence for the gender identity explanation is offered. More controlled studies capable of testing and exploring the implications of the gender identity explanation are proposed.

Gender is at core a group process because people use it as a primary frame for coordinating behavior in interpersonal relations. The everyday use of sex/gender as cultural tool for organizing social relations spreads gendered meanings beyond sex and reproduction to all spheres of social life that are carried out through social relationships and constitutes gender as a distinct and obdurate system of inequality. Through gender's role in organizing social relations, gender inequality is rewritten into new economic and social arrangements as they emerge, contributing to the persistence of that inequality in modified form in the face of potentially leveling economic and political changes in contemporary society.

Publication date
Book series
Advances in Group Processes
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN