Advertisement

Sex Roles

pp 1–13 | Cite as

The Power of Language: Gender, Status, and Agency in Performance Evaluations

  • David G. Smith
  • Judith E. Rosenstein
  • Margaret C. Nikolov
  • Darby A. Chaney
Original Article

Abstract

In the workplace, women often encounter gender stereotypes and biases that reinforce the existing gender hierarchy, may hinder women’s career aspirations and retention, and may limit their ability to be promoted—especially in traditionally male organizations. Long-standing and widely held (although often unconscious) beliefs about gender can reinforce women’s perceived lower status position relative to men’s. Because men are described/prescribed as agentic (often masculine) and women as communal (often feminine), women leaders are often evaluated as being status-incongruent. We explore the gendered assignment of leader attributes with particular attention to associations of agentic competence (deficiency for women) and agentic dominance (penalty for women). We examined peer evaluations of 4344 U.S. Naval Academy students who are assigned attributes from a predefined list. Although men and women received similar numbers of descriptive (positive) attributes, women received more proscriptive (negative) attributes than did men and these individual attributes were predominantly feminine. These findings offer evidence that women leaders’ status incongruity may be associated with perceived competence (agentic deficiency). A contribution of our analysis is theory testing using data from a real-life performance evaluation system. Additionally, our research contributes to our knowledge of gendered language and status characteristics in performance evaluations and can assist researchers and practitioners with developing interventions. Understanding the association of gender status beliefs with evaluation processes may facilitate changing workplace culture to be more gender-inclusive through less biased and stereotypical performance evaluations.

Keywords

Gender and leadership Agentic and communal traits Stereotype content Performance appraisal Military 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Alice Eagly, Carolyn Judge, Emerald Archer and the Sex Roles reviewers for their thoughtful comments. We would also like to thank Cathy McGuire for her invaluable research assistance with data management. The views of the authors are their own and do not purport to reflect the position of the U.S. Naval War College, the U.S. Naval Academy, the Department of the Navy, or the U.S. Department of Defense.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

The authors have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose for this research.

Ethical Approval

The research is based on a secondary data source from the U.S. Naval Academy and was approved by the U.S. Naval Academy Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Informed Consent

Informed consent was not applicable as the data was collected from a secondary data source.

Supplementary material

11199_2018_923_MOESM1_ESM.docx (53 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 52 kb)

References

  1. Abele, A. E., & Wojciszke, B. (2014). Communal and agentic content in social cognition: A dual perspective model. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 50, 195–255.  https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-800284-1.00004-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Archer, E. M. (2013). The power of gendered stereotypes in the US marine corps. Armed Forces & Society, 39(2), 359–391.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X12446924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atkinson, R. E. (2015). Military professionals as guardians of the republic: The hidden promise of Huntington’s The Soldier and the State. Retrieved from https://works.bepress.com/robert_atkinson/24/. Accessed 12 Mar 2018.
  4. Baer, J., & Kaufman, J. C. (2008). Gender differences in creativity. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 42(2), 75–105.  https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2162-6057.2008.tb01289.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bakan, D. (1966). The duality of human existence. Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  6. Barrett, F. J. (1996). The organizational construction of hegemonic masculinity: The case of the US navy. Gender, Work and Organization, 3(3), 129–142.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0432.1996.tb00054.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42(2), 155–162.  https://doi.org/10.1037/h0036215.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berger, J., Fisek, M. H., Norman, R. Z., & Zelditch Jr., M. (1977). Status characteristics and interaction: An expectation states approach. Annual Review of Sociology, 6, 479–508.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.so.06.080180.002403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Biernat, M., Crandall, C. S., Young, L. V., Kobrynowicz, D., & Halpin, S. M. (1998). All that you can be: Stereotyping of self and others in a military context. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(2), 301–317.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.75.2.301.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Biernat, M., Fuegen, K., & Kobrynowicz, D. (2010). Shifting standards and the inference of incompetence: Effects of formal and informal evaluation tools. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(7), 855–868.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167210369483.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Boldry, J., Wood, W., & Kashy, D. A. (2001). Gender stereotypes and the evaluation of men and women in military training. Journal of Social Issues, 57(4), 689–705.  https://doi.org/10.1111/0022-4537.00236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bolukbasi, T., Chang, K.-W., Zou, J. Y., Saligrama, V., & Kalai, A. T. (2016). Man is to computer programmer as woman is to homemaker? Debiasing word embeddings. Paper presented at the Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems, Barcelona.Google Scholar
  13. Boyce, L. A., & Herd, A. M. (2003). The relationship between gender role stereotypes and requisite military leadership characteristics. Sex Roles, 49(7–8), 365–378.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025164221364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Castilla, E. J. (2008). Gender, race, and meritocracy in organizational careers. American Journal of Sociology, 113(6), 1479–1526.  https://doi.org/10.1086/588738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale: Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  16. Correll, S., & Simard, C. (2016). Research: Vague feedback is holding women back. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/04/research-vague-feedback-is-holding-women-back. Accessed 7 Jun 2016.
  17. Cuddy, A. J. C., Fiske, S. T., & Glick, P. (2004). When professionals become mothers, warmth doesn't cut the ice. Journal of Social Issues, 60(4), 701–718.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0022-4537.2004.00381.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Davies, P. G., Spencer, S. J., & Steele, C. M. (2005). Clearing the air: Identity safety moderates the effects of stereotype threat on women's leadership aspirations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88(2), 276–287.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.88.2.276.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Eagly, A. H. (1987). Reporting sex differences. American Psychologist, 42, 756–757.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.42.7.755.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Eagly, A. H., Makhijani, M. G., & Klonsky, B. G. (1992). Gender and the evaluation of leaders: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 111(1), 3–22.  https://doi.org/10.1037//0033-2909.111.1.3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ebbert, J., & Hall, M.-B. (1993). Crossed currents: Navy women from WWI to Tailhook. Washington, DC: Brassey's.Google Scholar
  22. Eckes, T. (2002). Paternalistic and envious gender stereotypes: Testing predictions from the stereotype content model. Sex Roles, 47(3/4), 99–114.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:102102092.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J. C., Glick, P., & Xu, J. (2002). A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 878–902.  https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.82.6.878.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Francke, L. B. (1997). Ground zero: The gender wars in the military. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  25. Galinsky, A. D., Hall, E. V., & Cuddy, A. J. (2013). Gendered races: Implications for interracial marriage, leadership selection, and athletic participation. Psychological Science, 24(4), 498–506.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612457783.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gaucher, D., Friesen, J., & Kay, A. C. (2011). Evidence that gendered wording in job advertisements exists and sustains gender inequality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(1), 109–128.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022530.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102(1), 4–27.  https://doi.org/10.1037//0033-295x.102.1.4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gündemir, S., Homan, A. C., de Dreu, C. K., & van Vugt, M. (2014). Think leader, think white? Capturing and weakening an implicit pro-white leadership bias. PLoS One, 9(1), e83915.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0083915.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Halpern, D. F., & LaMay, M. L. (2000). The smarter sex: A critical review of sex differences in intelligence. Educational Psychology Review, 12(2), 229–246.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:100902751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Heilman, M. E. (2012). Gender stereotypes and workplace bias. Research in Organizational Behavior, 32, 113–135.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.riob.2012.11.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Heilman, M. E., Wallen, A. S., Fuchs, D., & Tamkins, M. M. (2004). Penalties for success: Reactions to women who succeed at male gender-typed tasks. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(3), 416–427.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.89.3.416.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hyde, J. S. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60(6), 581–592.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.6.581.
  33. Kalev, A., Dobbin, F., & Kelly, E. (2006). Best practices or best guesses? Assessing the efficacy of corporate affirmative action and diversity policies. American Sociological Review, 71(4), 589–617.  https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240607100404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ko, I., Kotrba, L., & Roebuck, A. (2015). Leaders as males?: The role of industry gender composition. Sex Roles, 72(7–8), 294–307.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-015-0462-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lerner, J. S., & Tetlock, P. E. (1999). Accounting for the effects of accountability. Psychological Bulletin, 125(2), 255–275.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.125.2.255.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Looney, J., Robinson Kurpius, S. E., & Lucart, L. (2004). Military leadership evaluations: Effects of evaluator sex, leader sex, and gender role attitudes. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 56(2), 104–118.  https://doi.org/10.1037/1061-4087.56.2.104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lundquist, J. H. (2008). Ethnic and gender satisfaction in the military: The effect of a meritocratic institution. American Sociological Review, 73(3), 477–496.  https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240807300306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martell, R. F., Lane, D. M., & Emrich, C. (1996). Male-female differences: A computer simulation. American Psychologist, 51(2), 157–158.  https://doi.org/10.1037//0003-066X.51.2.157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Morgan, M. J. (2004). Women in a man's world: Gender differences in leadership at the military academy. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34(12), 2482–2502.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2004.tb01988.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Moskos, C. (1993). From citizens' army to social laboratory. The Wilson Quarterly (1976-), 17(1), 83–94. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40258439. Accessed 12 Mar 2018.
  41. Parker, K., Horowitz, J. M., & Rohal, M. (2015). Women and leadership: Public says women are equally qualified, but barriers persist. Washington, DC. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2015/01/2015-01-14_women-and-leadership.pdf. Accessed 22 Mar 2018.
  42. Paustian-Underdahl, S. C., Walker, L. S., & Woehr, D. J. (2014). Gender and perceptions of leadership effectiveness: A meta-analysis of contextual moderators. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(6), 1129–1145.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036751.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pellerin, C. (2015). Carter opens all military occupations, positions to women. https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/632536/carter-opens-all-military-occupations-positions-to-women/. Accessed 1 Mar 2016.
  44. Petrides, K., & Furnham, A. (2000). Gender differences in measured and self-estimated trait emotional intelligence. Sex Roles, 42(5–6), 449–461.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:100700652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Prentice, D. A., & Carranza, E. (2002). What women and men should be, shouldn't be, are allowed to be, and don't have to be: The contents of prescriptive gender stereotypes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26(4), 269–281.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-6402.t01-1-00066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ridgeway, C. L. (2001). Gender, status, and leadership. Journal of Social Issues, 57(4), 637–655.  https://doi.org/10.1111/0022-4537.00233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rosen, S. (1992). The military as an internal labor market: Some allocation, productivity, and incentive problems. Social Science Quarterly, 73(2), 227–237.Google Scholar
  48. Rosette, A. S., Koval, C. Z., Ma, A., & Livingston, R. (2016). Race matters for women leaders: Intersectional effects on agentic deficiencies and penalties. The Leadership Quarterly, 27(3), 429–445.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2016.01.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rudman, L. A. (1998). Self-promotion as a risk factor for women: The costs and benefits of counterstereotypical impression management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(3), 629–645.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.74.3.629.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rudman, L. A., & Glick, P. (1999). Feminized management and backlash toward agentic women: The hidden costs to women of a kinder, gentler image of middle managers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(5), 1004–1010.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.77.5.1004.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rudman, L. A., & Glick, P. (2001). Prescriptive gender stereotypes and backlash toward agentic women. Journal of Social Issues, 57(4), 743–762.  https://doi.org/10.1111/0022-4537.00239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rudman, L. A., Moss-Racusin, C. A., Phelan, J. E., & Nauts, S. (2012). Status incongruity and backlash effects: Defending the gender hierarchy motivates prejudice against female leaders. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(1), 165–179.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2011.10.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (1996). Socioeconomic achievement in the life course of disadvantaged men: Military service as a turning point, circa 1940-1965. American Sociological Review, 61(3), 347–367.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2096353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schmitt, D. P., Realo, A., Voracek, M., & Allik, J. (2008). Why can't a man be more like a woman? Sex differences in big five personality traits across 55 cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(1), 168–182.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.94.1.168.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Segal, M. W., Smith, D. G., Segal, D. R., & Canuso, A. A. (2016). The role of leadership and peer behaviors in the performance and well-being of women in combat: Historical perspectives, unit integration, and family issues. Military Medicine, 181(1S), 28–39.  https://doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-15-00342.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Soares, R., Bartkiewicz, M. J., Mulligan-Ferry, L., Fendler, E., & Kun, E. W. C. (2013). Catalyst census: Fortune 500 women executive officers and top earners. http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/2013-catalyst-census-fortune-500-women-executive-officers-and-top-earners. Accessed 24 Mar 2018.
  57. Soyars, M. (2017). Firms' productivity rises as women become executives. Monthly Labor Review, 140, 1–2. http://www.heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/month140&div=6&g_sent=1&casa_token=&collection=journals. Accessed 9 Jun 2017.
  58. Swim, J., Borgida, E., Maruyama, G., & Myers, D. G. (1989). Joan McKay versus John McKay: Do gender stereotypes bias evaluations? Psychological Bulletin, 105(3), 409–429.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.105.3.409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. U.S. Department of Defense. (2016). Population representation in the military services: Fiscal year 2015. Washington, DC: Department of Defense Printing.Google Scholar
  60. United States Naval Academy. (2016). Midshipmen aptitude for commissioning system. Annapolis, MD. https://www.usna.edu/Commandant/Directives/Instructions/1000-1999/COMDTMIDNINST-1600.2HMIDSHIPMEN-APTITUDE-FOR-COMMISSION-SYSTEM.pdf. Accessed 28 Jun 2017.
  61. Wagner, D. G., & Berger, J. (1997). Gender and interpersonal task behaviors: Status expectation accounts. Sociological Perspectives, 40(1), 1–32.  https://doi.org/10.2307/1389491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Yee, L., Krivkovich, A., Kutcher, E., Epstein, B., Thomas, R., Finch, A., … Konar, E. (2016). Women in the workplace: 2016. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/women-in-the-workplace-2016. Accessed 24 Mar 2018.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Naval War CollegeNewportUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Naval AcademyAnnapolisUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Naval AcademyAnnapolisUSA
  4. 4.U.S. Marine CorpsOkinawaJapan

Personalised recommendations