Backlash: Who Does it, When, and Why?
35 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2008
Date Written: November 9, 2008
The backlash effect is a well-documented negative reaction toward women who are perceived as counter-stereotypical because they engage in "masculine" behaviors during the performance of their jobs. In four negotiation studies we explore the backlash effect in greater depth than previous studies by identifying key factors that affect the propensity for backlash against female negotiators. In particular, our results suggest that executives, who have salient mental models of assertive, successful women, use those exemplars as referents when evaluating the behavior of others. This exemplar is consistent with expectations that women are assertive, thus we find that executives tend not to backlash against assertive women. On the other hand, students in whom this exemplar is less salient, rely on core gender stereotypes in the evaluation of targets, and thus we find that they tend to backlash against assertive women for behaving counter-stereotypically. We then demonstrate that these schemas can be reversed in both populations. By imposing threat we induce executives to draw upon core gender stereotypes leading them to backlash against assertive behavior in women. By making the successful businesswoman exemplar salient in students we observe them using this exemplar as a referent and subsequently accepting the assertive behavior of women.
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