Why are women penalized for success at male tasks?: the implied communality deficit

J Appl Psychol. 2007 Jan;92(1):81-92. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.1.81.


In 3 experimental studies, the authors tested the idea that penalties women incur for success in traditionally male areas arise from a perceived deficit in nurturing and socially sensitive communal attributes that is implied by their success. The authors therefore expected that providing information of communality would prevent these penalties. Results indicated that the negativity directed at successful female managers--in ratings of likability, interpersonal hostility, and boss desirability--was mitigated when there was indication that they were communal. This ameliorative effect occurred only when the information was clearly indicative of communal attributes (Study 1) and when it could be unambiguously attributed to the female manager (Study 2); furthermore, these penalties were averted when communality was conveyed by role information (motherhood status) or by behavior (Study 3). These findings support the idea that penalties for women's success in male domains result from the perceived violation of gender-stereotypic prescriptions.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Prejudice*
  • Stereotyping*