Descriptive Norms and Gender Diversity: Reactance from Men

43 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2019

See all articles by Maliheh Paryavi

Maliheh Paryavi

Harvard University

Iris Bohnet

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Alexandra van Geen

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: February 9, 2019

Abstract

Descriptive norms provide social information on others’ typical behaviors and have been shown to lead to prescriptive outcomes by “nudging” individuals towards norm compliance in numerous settings. This paper examines whether descriptive norms lead to prescriptive outcomes in the gender domain. We examine whether such social information can influence the gender distribution of candidates selected by employers in a hiring context. We conduct a series of laboratory experiments where ‘employers’ decide how many male and female ‘employees’ they want to hire for male- and female-typed tasks and examine whether employers are more likely to hire more of one gender when informed that others have done so as well. In this set-up descriptive norms do not have prescriptive effects. In fact, descriptive norms do not affect female employers’ hiring decisions at all and lead to norm reactance and backlash from male employers when informed that others have hired more women.

Keywords: Choice, Decision Making, Gender Norms, Nudge, Framing, Reactance, Backlash

Suggested Citation

Paryavi, Maliheh and Bohnet, Iris and van Geen, Alexandra, Descriptive Norms and Gender Diversity: Reactance from Men (February 9, 2019). HKS Working Paper No. RWP19-007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3339571 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3339571

Maliheh Paryavi

Harvard University

Iris Bohnet (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-5605 (Phone)
617-496-5747 (Fax)

Alexandra Van Geen

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
36
Abstract Views
367
PlumX Metrics