Sex Roles

, Volume 67, Issue 11–12, pp 605–616 | Cite as

How to Talk about Gender Inequity in the Workplace: Using WAGES as an Experiential Learning Tool to Reduce Reactance and Promote Self-Efficacy

  • Matthew J. ZawadzkiEmail author
  • Cinnamon L. Danube
  • Stephanie A. Shields
Original Article


Interventions aimed at raising awareness of gender inequity in the workplace provide information about sexism, which can elicit reactance or fail to promote self-efficacy. We examined the effectiveness of experiential learning using the Workshop Activity for Gender Equity Simulation – Academic version (WAGES-Academic) to deliver gender inequity information. To assess whether the way gender inequity information is presented matters, we compared WAGES-Academic to an Information Only condition (knowledge without experiential learning) and a Group Activity control condition. We predicted that only the information presented in an experiential learning format (i.e., WAGES-Academic) would be retained because this information does not provoke reactance and instills self-efficacy. Participants (n = 241; U.S. college students from a large mid-Atlantic state university) filled out a gender equity knowledge test at baseline, after the intervention, and then 7–11 days later (to assess knowledge retention). In addition, we measured feelings of reactance and self-efficacy after the intervention. Results revealed that participants in the WAGES condition retained more knowledge than the other conditions. Furthermore, the effect of WAGES vs. Information Only on knowledge was mediated by WAGES producing less reactance and greater feelings of self-efficacy. Results suggest that experiential learning is a powerful intervention to deliver knowledge about gender equity in a non-threatening, lasting way.


Experiential learning Gender equity Intervention Reactance Self-efficacy Sexism 



Based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under award #0820212 to Stephanie A. Shields, Ph.D. In-kind support was provided by The Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, The Pennsylvania State University. We thank Elizabeth Demeusy, April Foster, and Brittney Schlechter for their invaluable assistance as experimenters.


  1. Allen, T. D., Herst, D. E. L., Bruck, C. S., & Sutton, M. (2000). Consequences associated with work-to-family conflict: A review and agenda for future research. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5, 278–308. doi: 10.1037/1076-8998.5.2.278.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191–215. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.84.2.191.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bandura, A. (1992). Exercise of personal agency through the self-efficacy mechanism. In R. Schwarzer (Ed.), Self-efficacy: Thought control of action (pp. 3–38). Washington, DC: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  4. Bandura, A. (2004). Health promotion by social cognitive means. Health Education & Behavior, 31, 143–164. doi: 10.1177/1090198104263660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barreto, M., Ryan, M. K., & Schmitt, M. (2009). The glass ceiling in the 21st century: Understanding barriers to gender equality. Washington, DC: APA.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barzansky, B., & Etzel, S. I. (2011). Medical schools in the United States, 2010–2011. Journal of the American Medical Association, 306, 1007–1014. doi: 10.1001/jama.2011.1220.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Becker, J. C., & Swim, J. K. (2011). Seeing the unseen: Attention to daily encounters with sexism as way to reduce sexist beliefs. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35, 227–242. doi: 10.1177/0361684310397509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Begany, J. J., & Milburn, M. A. (2002). Psychological predictors of sexual harassment: Authoritarianism, hostile sexism, and rape myths. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 3, 119–126. doi: 10.1037/1524-9920.3.2.119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bellas, M. L. (1993). Faculty salaries: Still a cost of being female? Social Science Quarterly, 74, 62–75.Google Scholar
  10. Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school (expanded ed.). Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  11. Brehm, J. (1966). A theory of psychological reactance. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  12. Brehm, S. S., & Brehm, J. W. (1981). Psychological reactance. New York, NY: Academic.Google Scholar
  13. Burke, M. J., Salvador, R. O., Smith-Crowe, K., Chan-Serafin, S., Smith, A., & Sonesh, S. (2011). The dread factor: How hazards and safety training influence learning and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 46–70. doi: 10.1037/a0021838.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Busch, T. (1995). Gender differences in self-efficacy attitudes toward computers. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 12, 147–158. doi: 10.2190/H7E1-XMM7-GU9B-3HWR.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E., & Kao, C. F. (1984). The efficient assessment of need for cognition. Journal of Personality Assessment, 48, 306–307. doi: 10.1207/s15327752jpa4803_13.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cantor, J. A. (1997). Experiential learning in higher education: Linking classroom and community (ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 7). Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education.Google Scholar
  17. Chan, D. K.-S., Lam, C. B., Chow, S. Y., & Cheung, S. F. (2008). Examining the job-related, psychological, and physical outcomes of workplace sexual harassment: A meta-analytic review. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 362–376. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00451.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Davis, M. H. (1980). A multidimensional approach to individual differences in empathy. JSAS Catalogue of Selected Documents in Psychology, 10, 85.Google Scholar
  19. Deitch, E. A., Barsky, A., Butz, R. M., Chan, S., Brief, A. P., & Bradley, J. C. (2003). Subtle yet significant: The existence and impact of everyday racial discrimination in the workplace. Human Relations, 56, 1299–1324. doi: 10/1177/00187267035611002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Drach-Zahavy, A., & Erez, M. (2002). Challenge versus threat effects on the goal-performance relationship. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 88, 667–682. doi: 10.1016/S0749-5978(02)00004-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Eubank, D., Orzano, J., Geffken, D., & Ricci, R. (2011). Teaching team membership to family medicine residents: What does it take? Families, Systems & Health, 29, 29–43. doi: 10.1037/a0022306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Floyd, D. L., Prentice-Dunn, S., & Rogers, R. W. (2006). A meta-analysis of research on protection motivation theory. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 30, 407–429. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2000.tb02323.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1985). If it changes it must be a process: Study of emotion and coping during three stages of college examination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 150–170. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.48.1.150.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Frieze, I. H., Olson, J. E., & Good, D. C. (1990). Perceived and actual discrimination in the salaries of male and female managers. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 20, 46–67. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1990.tb00377.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gist, M. E., & Mitchell, T. R. (1992). Self-efficacy: A theoretical analysis of its determinants and malleability. The Academy of Management Review, 17, 183–211. doi: 10.2307/258770.Google Scholar
  26. Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1996). The Ambivalent Sexism Inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 491–512. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.70.3.491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1997). Hostile and benevolent sexism: Measuring ambivalent sexist attitudes toward women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 119–135. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00104.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2001). An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality. American Psychologist, 56, 109–118. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.56.2.109.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ginther, D. K., & Hayes, K. J. (2003). Gender differences in salary and promotion for faculty in the Humanities 1977–95. Journal of Human Resources, 38, 34–73. doi: 10.3368/jhr.XXXVIII.1.34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Good, A., & Abraham, C. (2011). Can the effectiveness of health promotion campaigns be improved using self-efficacy and self-affirmation interventions? An analysis of sun protection messages. Psychology and Health, 26, 799–818. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2010.495157.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. The Academy of Management Review, 10, 76–88. doi: 10.2307/258214.Google Scholar
  32. Hoare, R. (2012, May 9). Meet Fortune 500’s female powerbrokers. CNN. Retrieved from
  33. Hong, S., & Page, S. (1989). A psychological reactance scale: Development, factor structure and reliability. Psychological Reports, 64, 1323–1326. doi: 10.2466/pr0.1989.64.3c.1323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hunt, C. M., Davidson, M. J., Fielden, S. L., & Hoel, H. (2010). Reviewing sexual harassment in the workplace – an intervention model. Personnel Review, 39, 12655–12673. doi: 10.1108/00483481011064190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jones, G. P., & Jacklin, C. N. (1988). Changes in sexist attitudes toward women during introductory women’s and men’s studies course. Sex Roles, 18, 611–622. doi: 10.1007/BF00287964.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jost, J. T., & Kay, A. C. (2005). Exposure to benevolent sexism and complementary gender stereotypes: Consequences for specific and diffuse forms of system justification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 498–509. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.88.3.498.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kilmartin, C., Smith, T., Green, A., Heinzen, H., Kuchler, M., & Kolar, D. (2008). A real time social norms intervention to reduce male sexism. Sex Roles, 59, 264–273. doi: 10.1007/s11199-008-9446-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  39. Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. The Academy of Management Learning and Education, 4, 193–212. doi: 10.5172/jmo.16.1.100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Luzzo, D. A., & McWhirter, E. H. (2001). Sex and ethnic differences in the perception of educational and career-related barriers and levels of coping efficacy. Journal of Counseling and Development, 79, 61–67. doi: 10.1002/j.1556-6676.2001.tb01944.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879–891. doi: 10.3758/BRM.40.3.879.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pryor, J. B. (1987). Sexual harassment proclivities in men. Sex Roles, 17, 269–270. doi: 10.1007/BF00299453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Renzulli, L. A., Grant, L., & Kathuria, S. (2006). Race, gender, and the wage gap: Comparing faculty salaries in predominantly white and historically black colleges and universities. Gender and Society, 20, 491–510. doi: 10.1177/0891243206287130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rosen, B., & Mericle, M. F. (1979). Influence of strong versus weak fair employment policies and applicant's sex on selection decisions and salary. Recommendations in a management simulation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 64, 435–439. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.64.4.435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rudman, L. A., & Glick, P. (2008). The social psychology of gender: How power and intimacy shape gender relations. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  46. Schwarzer, R. (1992). Self-efficacy in the adoption and maintenance of healthy behaviors: Theoretical approaches and a new model. In R. Schwarzer (Ed.), Self-efficacy: Thought control of action (pp. 217–243). Washington, DC: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  47. Schmidt, H. G., Loyens, S. M. M., van Gog, T., & Paas, F. (2007). Problem-based learning is compatible with human cognitive architecture: Commentary on Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational Psychologist, 42, 91–97. doi: 10.1080/00461520701263350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sherer, M., Maddux, J. E., Mercandante, B., Prentice-Dunn, S., Jacobs, B., & Rogers, R. W. (1982). The self-efficacy scale: Construction and validation. Psychological Reports, 51, 663–671. doi: 10.2466/pr0.1982.51.2.663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shields, S. A., Zawadzki, M. J., & Johnson, R. N. (2011). The impact of the Workshop Activity for Gender Equity Simulation in the Academy (WAGES-Academic) in demonstrating cumulative effects of gender bias. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 4, 120–129. doi: 10.1037/a0022953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Springer, L, M. E. Stanne, & S. S. Donovan. (1997). Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: A meta-analysis. Research Monograph 11. University of Wisconsin-Madison: National Institute for Science Education.Google Scholar
  51. Stevens, C. K., Bavetta, A. G., & Gist, M. E. (1993). Gender differences in the acquisition of salary negotiation skills: The role of goals, self-efficacy, and perceived control. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 723–735. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.78.5.723.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62, 271–286. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.62.4.271.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Swim, J. K., Aiken, K. J., Hall, W. S., & Hunter, B. A. (1995). Sexism and racism: Old-fashioned and modern prejudices. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 199–214. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.68.2.199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Swim, J. K., Becker, J., Lee, E., & Pruitt, E. R. (2009). Sexism reloaded: Worldwide evidence for its endorsement, expression, and emergence in multiple contexts. In H. Landrine & N. Russo (Eds.), Bringing diversity to feminist psychology. New York, NY: Spring.Google Scholar
  55. Swim, J. K., & Cohen, L. L. (1997). Overt, covert, and subtle sexism: A comparison between the Attitudes Toward Women and Modern Sexism Scales. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 103–118. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00103.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Swim, J. K., Hyers, L. L., Cohen, L. L., & Ferguson, M. J. (2001). Everyday sexism: Evidence for its incidence, nature, and psychological impact from three daily diary studies. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 31–53. doi: 10.1111/0022-4537.00200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Swim, J. K., Mallet, R., & Stangor, C. (2004). Understanding subtle sexism: Detection and use of sexist language. Sex Roles, 51, 117–128. doi: 10.1023/B:SERS.0000037757.73192.06.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Valian, V. (1998). Why so slow? The advancement of women. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  59. Webster-Wright, A. (2009). Reframing professional development through understanding authentic professional learning. Review of Educational Research, 79, 702–739. doi: 10.3102/0034654308330970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Weisgram, E. S., & Bigler, R. S. (2007). Effects of learning about gender discrimination on adolescent girls’ attitudes toward and interest in science. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31, 262–269. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2007.00369.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Witte, K. (1992). Putting the fear back into fear appeals: The extended parallel process model. Communication Monographs, 59, 329–349. doi: 10.1080/03637759209376276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wright, A. L., Schwindt, L. A., Bassford, T. L., Reyna, V. F., Shisslak, C. M., St. Germain, P. A., & Reed, K. L. (2003). Gender differences in academic advancement: Patterns, causes, and potential solutions in one U.S. college of medicine. Academic Medicine, 78, 500–508.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zappe, S. E. (2006). Analysis of the “Understanding of Gender Inequality Issues and Sexual Harassment Scale.” Unpublished manuscript, Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew J. Zawadzki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cinnamon L. Danube
    • 2
  • Stephanie A. Shields
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biobehavioral HealthThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral ScienceUniversity of WashingtonUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations