‘Macho’ women face backlash at work


Working women who demonstrate stereotypical male behaviours should try to be mindful of their conduct or they are likely to face set-backs because they don’t fit the female stereotype.
This is the findings of research by Olivia O’Neill from George Mason University and Charles O’Reilly from Stanford University published online today, 19 January, in the Journal of Occupational Psychology by BPS Journals in partnership with Wiley-Blackwell.

Although women have made considerable advancements in the workplace they still lag behind men when it comes to the top posts. One explanation is that women who demonstrate the traits that are consistent with successful managers (self-confidence, assertiveness and dominance) are perceived negatively for not behaving in a traditionally feminine way. This has been called the ‘backlash’ effect. These women are seen as more competent but also seen as less socially skilled, less likeable and less likely to be promoted.

To ascertain whether these women would benefit from self-monitoring behaviour and be mindful of how they are perceived by others, this research collected information over two time periods. In 1986 and 1987 80 MBA program students (47% women) completed personality and management questionnaires and seven years later follow up questionnaires on their on their career history.
The results showed that those women who displayed male characteristics and self-monitored their behaviour were more likely to be promoted than those who did not self-monitor. This was not the case for men.

Olivia said: ‘Working women face a real dilemma, if they are seen to behave in a stereotypically male way they may damage their chances of promotion, even though these traits are synonymous with successful managers. These findings suggest if these women learn how to self-monitor their behaviour they have a better chance of promotion.

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