Why Women Are the Oppressed Majority

10 October 2016

The processes giving rise to these outcomes are explored, and the procedures that are likely to encourage them are identified. Because of gender bias and the way in which it influences evaluations in work settings, it is argued that being competent does not ensure that a woman will advance to the same organizational level as an equivalently performing man. Why are women so scarce at the top level of organizations? It is proposed here that gender bias in evaluation is a primary cause.

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The “glass ceiling,” which presents an impenetrable barrier at some point in a woman’s career (Morrison, White, & Van Velsor, 1987), is viewed as a natural consequence of gender stereotypes and the expectations they produce about what women are like and how they should behave. Because of gender bias and the way in which it influences evaluation in work settings, being competent provides no assurance that a woman will advance to the same organizational levels as an equivalently performing man. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Madeline E. Heilman, Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, Room 576, New York, NY 10003 [e-mail: [email protected] nyu. edu]. 657 © 2001 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues 658 Heilman The claim that gender stereotypes are responsible for biased evaluations in organizations is not new. Gender stereotypes have frequently been used to explain why women are not hired into positions leading to organizational power and prestige.

I, however, am positing that the effects of gender stereotypes continue to dog women as they climb the organizational ladder. These ideas contrast sharply with other explanations of why there are so few women at the top organizational levels, such as “pipeline” theories that lay the blame on time and supply (e. g. , Forbes, Piercy, & Hayes, 1988), and “deficit” theories that presume women to be deficient in the characteristics necessary to fulfill traditionally male roles (e. g. , Feuer, 1988).

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