Backlash: Who Does it, When, and Why?

35 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2008

See all articles by Catherine H. Tinsley

Catherine H. Tinsley

Georgetown University - Department of Management

Emily T. Amanatullah

Georgetown University Women's Leadership Institute

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.

Suggested Citation

Tinsley, Catherine H. and Amanatullah, Emily T., Backlash: Who Does it, When, and Why? (November 9, 2008). IACM 21st Annual Conference Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Catherine H. Tinsley (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Department of Management ( email )

Rafik B Hariri Building
McDonough School of Business
Washington, DC 20057
United States
202-687-2524 (Phone)


Emily T. Amanatullah

Georgetown University Women's Leadership Institute ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

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