Is There a Glass Escalator?
by Stephany Schings Below, Communications Manager
SIOP Member Studies Views of Men and Women in Stereotypically Male and Female Jobs
Numerous studies have documented the negative perceptions and treatment women face when holding stereotypically male jobs. However, little research has documented the perceptions of men in stereotypically female jobs. One SIOP member’s research explores the concept of a “glass escalator” that finds when it comes to gender norms, men really do benefit by going against the grain.
Investigators have speculated that workplace sex-discrimination—e.g., the glass ceiling—occurs when there is a misalignment between the sex of a job holder and gender type of the job, explained SIOP Member Samantha Morris, an associate I-O psychologist at MillerCoors. This is often the case, Morris said, when researchers show that women in male-type jobs are discriminated against or viewed negatively for violating gender norms. But these explanations fail to consider men who work in feminine gender-typed jobs.
If violation of gender norms is the underlying cause of a glass ceiling for women, the same justification should hold for men in feminine gender-typed professions, Morris explained. However, research on men working in female-dominated professions has shown that men are typically not subjected to such biases. Instead, some are promoted above and beyond their female counterparts and often at much faster rates, a situation that has been coined the “glass escalator.”
“Much of the psychological research really does just focus on women in male gender- type jobs,” Morris added. “But some sociological studies have focused on men in female-type jobs. So there is some research about the concept of the ‘glass escalator,’ though much of it is anecdotal or around case studies and field studies.”
Morris set out to find whether or not she could find empirical support for the concept of a glass escalator. What her research shows is that the multivariate results are partially supportive of the glass escalator phenomenon such that men in female gender-typed jobs were not denigrated but were actually perceived favorably.
Morris will present her findings during a poster session at the 26th Annual SIOP Conference April 14-16 in Chicago. (If you haven’t already, registertoday to get the early registration discount!)
Morris was inspired to take a closer look at how gender-type jobs affected perceptions of men after a discussion of this concept in a graduate course.
“There was a debate among the members of one of my graduate classes over an article,” Morris explained. “We were debating (Madeline E.) Heillman’s research. Her article was relating to women being denigrated in stereotypically male positions. One of the class members stood up to say, ‘I think the same thing would happen to a man in a woman’s job, so really it’s not a big deal, it’s a wash,’ and I thought that really I didn’t think that would happen.”
Morris decided to build on the previous research and expand it to focus more on men.
“Given that psychology had so much research on women in the male gender-type jobs and some of these had been replicated and had been published in very prestigious journals, I thought it would be best to do what they had done but sort of reverse it,” she said. “So instead of focusing on the women in the male gender-type jobs, I would focus on the men in the female gender-type jobs to determine if this glass escalator really does exist.”
Morris hypothesized that the successful man in the feminine gender-typed job would be rated as (a) more competent, (b) more likable, and (c) less interpersonally hostile than the successful woman in the feminine gender-typed job and successful men and women in the masculine gender-typed job and gender-neutral job. She also hypothesized that likability and competency would positively affect overall evaluations of both male and female employees, that hostility would negatively affect overall evaluations of both male and female employees, and that overall evaluations would have a significant, positive effect on reward recommendations made about both male and female employees.
For the experiment, 229 undergraduate university students from a mid-sized midwestern university were told they were taking part in a study designed to assess the underlying cognitions involved in promotion processes. Each participant was randomly assigned to review a brief vignette describing either a male or female employee in one of three gendered job types (male, female, or gender neutral).
Registered nurses were used as the example of the female-type job in Morris’ study, though librarians, medical technicians, and elementary school teachers have also been used in this respect. Morris said she chose registered nurses for her female-type job example due to the fact that nurses are perceived to be very caring, which is typically associated with women and that nursing is predominated by women. According to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008, men comprised approximately 8. 3% of all registered nursing positions within the United States, Morris explained.
Morris based the male-type career on previous research that has been done using the position of vice president of Financial Affairs.
“I chose it since previous research had supported it,” she said. “I think there are two things that make the job perceived as a male job. For similar titles such as personal financial manager or financial analysts, women comprise roughly 35 % of these jobs, so it’s a little bit more skewed toward men.”
For the gender-neutral position, Morris used the title of director of Training, which was also supported based on previous research as a gender-neutral position.
After participants viewed the information regarding the employee and his/her job, they were asked to answer a series of questions about them, including assessing their likeability, competence, and interpersonal hostility, as well as giving an overall evaluation and reward recommendations.
Results of the investigation revealed that there is a significant interaction between the sex of a person and the gender type of a job, Morris explained.
“The first thing I found was that the results definitely verified or supported the previous finding of other researchers who looked at women in male-type jobs,” Morris explained. “These women were perceived as the most hostile, the least competent, and the least likeable.”
But when Morris looked at the results for the men in the female-type jobs, she found that they were not evaluated negatively, denied reward recommendations, or otherwise penalized for violating the norms associated with their gender. On the contrary, she said, male-norm violators received some of the most positive ratings. In fact, when compared to men and women in masculine gender-typed jobs, men and women in gender-neutral jobs, and women in feminine gender-typed jobs, male targets in the feminine gender-typed job received the second most favorable ratings across likability, hostility, and competence. Only women in the feminine gender-typed job received higher ratings.
“The men in the female-type jobs were the second highest rated group,” Morris said. “The only group that scored more favorable were women in the female gender-type jobs. Using the violating gender norms hypothesis, you would expect really an exact opposite pattern, that the men in male jobs should have been perceived more favorable than men in the female gender-type jobs. Men in the male gender-type jobs were not rated unfavorably, but men in female-type jobs were rated higher.”
The gender neutral-type job ratings ended up in the middle of favorability ratings, Morris added.
She said she hopes her research will help employers combat these biases.
“If we are aware of these biases and we are taught to deal with them, then we know what to look for and we can adjust for that,” she explained. “With other biases, we have shown that knowing about them helps us overcome them. So I think just having this knowledge and awareness can help people temper these biases.”
For now, women still face negative perception in male-type jobs.
“I think it just goes to show we have come a long way in the way we view women in the workplace, but there is still a way to go because the finding that the women in the male gender-type jobs are still denigrated exists to a certain degree,” Morris added.
What does this mean for men in nursing and other female-type jobs?
“I guess it’s good news for them,” Morris said. “But I think for managers or those in charge of hiring or the promotion decisions, just being aware that these biases exist is important so they can temper those biases and make more objective reviews and decisions.”
Organizations and individuals in the workplace spend a great deal of time and energy trying to influence clients, customers, colleagues, board members, and everyone in between. Whether an organization would like its employees to work harder or an employee would like colleagues to share information more easily, everyone has something they want.
According to the closing keynote speaker for the 2011 SIOP annual conference
, Dr. Robert Cialdini, getting what you want can be as simple as giving first.
Cialdini has spent his entire career researching the science of influence, earning him an international reputation as an expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation. His books, including Influence: Science & Practice, are the results of years of study into the reasons why people comply with requests in business settings. Worldwide, Influence has sold more than 2 million copies and has been published in 26 languages. His most recent coauthored book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive has been on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal best seller lists.
Cialdini is president of Influence at Work
, an international training, speaking, and consulting organization based on the “Six Principles of Influence.” His clients include such organizations as Google, Microsoft, Coca Cola, Kodak, Merrill Lynch, Nationwide Insurance, Pfizer, AAA, IBM, The Mayo Clinic, Harvard University-Kennedy School, The Weather Channel, the United States Department of Justice, and NATO.
During his keynote address at SIOP, Cialdini will give a brief overview of the Six Principles of Influence, approaches he considers to be the universally effective principles of persuasion, focusing his talk on one principle he said is underused frequently in many workplace settings: the principle of reciprocation. Using the concept of giving first, he explains, organizations and individuals can get what they want with oftentimes very minimal effort and resources.
The Six Principles of Influence
1. Reciprocation-You should give back what you have received from others
2. Scarcity-People want more of those things they can have less of
3. Authority-Being an authority or an expert on something
4. Consistency-The desire to be consistent with what one has already said or done
5. Liking-People prefer to say “yes” to those they know and like
6. Consensus- People will want to perform behaviors or take actions to the extent that they see multiple comparable others performing those actions
“Reciprocation is the rule that exists in all human cultures and is trained into all human societies to give back to others what they have received first from those others,” Cialdini explained. “What’s nice about that rule is how cross culturally embedded it is. This rule will apply to anybody in any culture because every human society trains its members from childhood in this rule.”
Although he said it is a universal concept, Cialdini noted that many organizations and individuals fail to use reciprocation to their advantage.
“I would say the principle of reciprocation is suboptimized,” he explained. “Very frequently people don’t employ the power of that rule to move others, including those inside of their organizational envelope—friends, colleagues, coworkers, and so on—and those outside the organization, such as customers and prospects. They don’t fully utilize the power of these human tendencies.”
However, when used properly, reciprocation can be a very powerful strategy, he added.
“What that does is put a lot of control in the hands of the person who acts first,” he said. “Whatever a person wants in the workplace, a more positive attitude for example, if you provide first, it flows back to you.”
For example, Cialdini explained, if you want more rapid information from the people around you, give them more rapid information to allow them to do their jobs better, and they will give it to you.
“This rule is a great boon to those who recognize how it works and know how to use it ethically by giving benefits first,” he added. “And then the individuals who receive those benefits will stand ready and eager to give benefits back.”
Some individuals and organizations use a different reward orientation that gives people a reward after they do what you want, Cialdini explained. However, he noted that research he will present during his keynote address shows that giving the reward after someone does what you want them to do actually produces less compliance than giving to the person first.
“For example, there is some interesting research from survey researchers who find that if you send people a long survey to complete, you get a certain level of compliance,” Cialdini explained. “If you offer them money when they complete the survey and send it back, let’s say $15, you get less compliance than if you put $5 in the envelope and give them that amount before they complete the survey. Even though they received less than they would have received after the fact, you get significantly more people filling out the questionnaire when the money is given to them first.”
One of the reasons for this, Cialdini explained, is cultural.
“Because once people receive, they feel obligated to give back,” he said. “You want to be part of a profitable exchange with people who benefit you at the outset. So if you benefit them in return, then you’ve got a mutual partner now who you can continue to interact with in profitable ways.”
If giving less before someone complies with your request is more effective than giving more after they have complied, why doesn’t everyone do it?
“It’s easier to just set a reward—to just set an incentive,” Cialdini explained. “And that’s not to say incentives don’t work; of course they do, but there are other approaches that work as well too, so we shouldn’t just rely on rewards.”
During his keynote presentation Cialdini will present evidence and some of his own research that shows how one might use this rule for reciprocation to produce greater positive outcomes.
“It doesn’t have to be an individual you do something for,” Cialdini explained. “We show using this approach of giving first that a company that uses cause-related marketing can also reap benefits of reciprocation. For a company that says to its customers, “If you buy our products or use our services, we will give a percentage of the profit to a good cause,” such as the Olympics, versus a company that says “We’ve already made a contribution in the name of our customers to the Olympics,” the marketing showing how they already gave something will produces more compliance with their requests. As a customer, you’ve been gifted to them, and there is an obligation to pay them pack. We like people who have given to us spontaneously. You go first, you give, and then when the person says “Thank you,” you say, “Of course, this is what we do for one another.’”
Giving doesn’t have to be strictly monetary, either, Cialdini added.
“Giving can include information sharing, a positive attitude in the workplace, smiling,” he explained. “It doesn’t have to cost anything. The general rule is that the more specific the connection is, people feel obligated to give you back the form of action you give to them. But if you’ve done them a favor, let’s say give them some staff that they need to complete a project and then you ask them later on to turn around a report more quickly, you are going to be more inclined to do that.”
Cialdini said reciprocation is just a part of the larger picture in the workplace.
“The larger theme that I am going to be talking about is the underutilization of these principles that don’t require any deceptions, don’t require any coercion, and don’t require any expense,” he said. “The takeaway for attendees is to do some things differently as a result of the material that they hear about. These are things that will require very little effort on their part but will make a big difference in their persuasiveness and their ability to influence those around them at work.”
Dr. Robert Cialdini
received his PhD from the University of North Carolina and post-doctoral training from Columbia University. He has held visiting scholar appointments at Ohio State University, the University of California, the Annenberg School of Communications, and the Graduate School of Business of Stanford University. Currently, he is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University.