Gender Sucks for You and Me

When women enter into an occupation that has previously been male dominated, it can be described as becoming “feminized.” While individual women may benefit from joining a male-dominated field, it is unclear how this affects women in all male-dominated fields. In Socius, Tamar Kricheli-Katz explores how the feminization of one field affects perceptions of women in other high-status fields. This nationally representative sample of U.S. adults also includes a large number of people who identify as managers, which is useful for understanding hiring practices.

Participants began by reading a short passage about a high-status occupation—management consulting. The gender composition was intentionally varied, informing some participants that the occupation predominantly included men, with women making up only 25 percent. In contrast, another group of participants was informed that the occupation was predominantly made up of women (55 percent). Then, participants were asked to evaluate application materials of a woman candidate for another high-status occupation—a marketing executive.

Kricheli-Katz found that when participants believed that management consulting was woman-dominated, the woman marketing executive candidate was less often recommended for hire, recommended lower pay, and was perceived as less competent by managers who were men. Alternatively, women managers rated the marketing executive applicant as more competent when management consulting was predominantly made up of women.

Kricheli-Katz argues the feminization of high-status occupations can be a threat to men managers’ identity as they have historically held more powerful positions in these occupations compared to women. Overall, this research shows that women merely entering into a male-dominated occupation does not result in gender equality. Rather, perceptions of women in these occupations may depend on the relative positions and power of women in all fields.

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