Article proposal for the tf cje special issue about the capability approach marta zientek (deadline 31.07.11)

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  • 1. Gender-role stereotypes and learner’s notion of self-identity in the capability approachThis paper focuses on social identity in the capability approach and its functions which areconstantly transformed in the process of learning by categorization, cultural symbolic categoriesand finally stigmatization. Nowadays more and more workers are active agents and socialleaders in the field of their jobs according to a strong need of change in the engagement process.However, they are ready to build their own capabilities more on the background of theirpractical and free choices than on the labour market’s economic transactions, they can meetignorance, false consciousness and financial deprivation in the workplace. This empiricalresearch based on online 46 in-depth interviews and then on focus group interviews, tries toidentify “turning points” in people’s lives and their influence on building self-knowledge anddefinition of “social identity”. Thanks to this approach we can observe how individuals andcommunities are presented and distinguished in their social relations or their relationships. AsStuart Hall writes “cultural and national identities are always created and transformed withinrepresentations and in relation to them; they are always constructed within discourse, not insideit” (Hall, 1996). Being among others people creates their own reality of capabilities they have aswomen or men and its social symbolic structure of long-term or short-term space where theseactors can participate. Defined in this way all social situations are dynamic and able to developand should be analyzed together with such aspects as: socio-cultural conditions and experiencesof examined actors. Keywords: capability approach; learner’s notion; social roles; self-identity; process of education; gendered-role deprivationTheoretical Background Social identity is one of several themes within personality study that bridge theindividual, relational and collective elements of self. It is an idea that is addressed in all majortheories of personality either explicitly or implicitly, a fact that indisputably supports thecentrality of constructs that connect individual, relational and collective aspects of the humanexperience. The idea of social identity not only serves to integrate a range of theories andtheoretical propositions about the self, but also fits well as a theme for students who aregrappling with their identities as they make serious decisions about their prospectiveoccupations or existed roles in a company’s workplace. It’s obvious that links between social
  • 2. identity theory and aspects of personality exist and that both influence citizenship. Socialidentities are presented as cognitive constructs or labels that reflect identification with multiplesocial niches or roles. These group memberships may include those related to an individual’sfamily, neighborhood, community or social class. These aspects of identity are considered to bebroader in scope than roles, as they provide central motivational and self-regulatory functionsacross time and circumstance, even as roles change significantly or disappear from view. It isalso important to note that social identities can be both general and specific in scope (e.g. socialscience student vs. engineering student; rap dancer vs. classical Indian dancer) and that theymay reflect general ideas of group identification as well as highly specific implementations oftheir habits. Social identities may also persist in shaping behaviors and personality, even asroles change quite radically or disappear. As a personality construct, social identity is alsocomplicated because it is a noun that sounds like an object or state, but in fact representsongoing social cognitive processes and social interactions, especially communication. Forexample, a social identity is considered to embody a type of self-categorization or labeling, butalso represents a series of social comparisons and behavioral decisions made in private self-reflective conversation, as networks of self/other attributions, or as observable socialenactments. A good example of such processes may be made of the teenager learning to fit inwith a peer group. Acceptance and participation in the group may involve all the elements ofmodeling, including among many elements, the imitation of nuanced language, dress, interests,and attitudes toward other individuals or groups. Development of a group membership identityis also likely to include an ongoing self-labeling process in relation to the group (being amember of professionals who I cooperate with) and communication of these identities throughself-labeling or self presentation (clothes, badges or other extensions). Such categorization mayensure that personality can be visible as a part of group events, and may convince others thatone is indeed committed to the group and available for participation in related activities. Theidentity label may also help to resolve conflicts within the individual regarding allocation oftime and finances, as it guides priorities of actions in order to ensure status or inclusion. Finally,self-observation and feedback from others within and outside the group may shape and hone the
  • 3. identity by providing information, validation, and by modeling new or refined aspects of roles.Social identities may be linked and mutually reinforcing and easily connected to broaderparticipation in the community or culture. Similarly, roles and identities that are located in aparticular social setting (e.g. school identities of child’s parents) may be mutually reinforcingand conceptually connected. These roles and identities may cooperate in establishing a widerange of behavioral attitudes and approaches that lead to a strong sense of social integrity. Thisconscious engagement provides ongoing motivation even when the environment is lesssupportive or when aspects of the identity are less salient or are changing (e.g. when onechanges spaces: schools or jobs and moves to another). More active actor’s personality refers tothe extent to which people are willing to take action to influence their environments. Moreproactive people are relatively unconstrained by situational forces and are willing to affectenvironmental change in the process of continuous education. They show initiative, identifyopportunities, act on them, and persevere until they meet their objectives which are the nextstage of conscious profess of self-learning. They are ready to face problems, and take individualresponsibility to make an impact on the world around them. They anticipate environmentalchanges and take advantage of opportunities to improve their situation. That’s their freedom ofchoice which was merely created in the process of life-long learning than the formal educationat school. Proactive behavior in the learner’s notion is connected with stepping forward to eithersituations or circumstances or to create new ones. However, human experiences, social roles,and self-identities of learners do not always seem to act that affirmatively. In fact, people oftenexperience many conflicts between common identities presented in the process of formaleducation, and individual and collective experiences, related to the lifelong learning process intheir mature life. Such conflicts have been the subject of psychological inquiry because theyvery often lead to individual and group fragmentation with varied consequences, some mundaneand some dire to human development issue. Both the process of categorization using culturalsymbolic categories and finally labeling through stigmatization can be a good background tostereotypes which refer to the human tendency to categorize people into general groups basedon attributes such as capabilities or gender and then to present beliefs about characteristics and
  • 4. behavior of individual members of these groups. Gender may be a universal dimension for aspecial labeling - stereotyping people because it is a visually prominent physical feature thatenables people to quickly sort others into two distinct categories of social roles and sexcapabilities--men and women (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). This categorization, widely shared beliefsabout characteristics attributed to men and women are commonly held in society and well-documented in the literature. Men and women are believed to differ on social actions (oftenlabeled communal) as well as achievement-oriented tasks (often labeled agented). Women arecommonly believed to have more communal qualities (expressiveness, connectedness,relatedness, kindness, supportiveness or sympathy) whereas men are associated with moreagented qualities (independence, aggressiveness, autonomy, instrumentality, courage). Thesestereotypes tend to be oppositional in nature--the characteristics positively associated with men(e.g. aggressiveness, autonomous) are considered undesirable for women and vice versa (e.g.kind, supportive). They not only build the conscious background in minds to describe how menand women are (descriptive stereotypes) but also how they should be (prescriptive stereotypes).Descriptive and prescriptive stereotypes can’t be learnt as mutually exclusive. Instead, there is agreat deal of overlap between the two, with the behavior that is prescribed directly related to theattributes that positively describe members of the stereotyped group by prescribing appropriatebehavior for members of two groups, as well as produce gender-role stereotypes. Expectationsand beliefs concerning the different qualities and capabilities that men and women bring to theirwork often dictate the type of school subjects or jobs that are considered appropriate for themand then those become known as typical for girls or boys in the process of lifelong learning andgaining experience. This gender typing of school subjects and jobs as predominantly masculineor feminine is common across different social groups in society. For example, stereotypesrelated to engineering, surgery, and judiciary are predominantly masculine while thoseassociated with nursing and servicing tend to be largely feminine. In the organizationalliterature, upper management is believed to be a manly business while secretarial jobs are seenas a womans job. These commonly-held stereotypes build gender stigma, they reflect andpromote gender segregation in employment (Cejka & Eagly, 1999), and usually serve to limit
  • 5. opportunities for women. Stereotype researchers argue that gender stereotypes can have aprofound influence on peoples career intentions. Stereotypes influence on people’s capabilitiesand their approach to understand free choice of proper way of life. When people perceive a lackof fit between their characteristics and the stereotypes associated with a particular task, theirintentions to pursue that task are lower than those who perceive a stronger one. Considerableempirical evidence confirms that women aspire to tasks that are associated with their gender,while preferring to stay away from those that are not associated with it. The theory of stereotypethreat (Steele, 1992, 1997) highlights the important role of negative stereotypes in underminingthe aspirations and performance of targets of stereotype. According to this theory, people fromnegatively stereotyped groups (e.g. women entrepreneurs) are considered to see themselves assalient; they show constant decrease in performance and aspirations on the targeted task, both atschool and workspace. When people are made aware of stereotypes related to their social groupand they believe that they may be judged based on these stereotypes, they become moreaddicted to the threat of the gendered stigma (Steele, 2005). Some researchers believe thatentrepreneurship is stereotypically positively associated with masculine characteristics andnegatively with feminine characteristics (Ahl, 2006; Fagenson & Marcus, 1991). Furthermore,they argue that when women are presented with a male attribute about managers society aremore ready to let them think to disengage from entrepreneurship. What’s more, it can decreasetheir intentions to become an entrepreneur in a close future. This sociologically createdperception which mainly focuses on what others believe or of how others treat managerialwomen is similar to the concept of stereotype threat (Steele, 1997). This concept has beendefined as “the social-psychological threat that arises when one is in a situation for which anegative stereotype about one’s group applies” (p. 614). Stereotype threat is nothing more thana "situational predicament" experienced only when the negative stereotype applies in suchcircumstances of learner’s notion in the process of self-education (Steele, 1997). In other words,stereotype threat is felt only in situations where one person is vulnerable to negative stereotypesabout other group. When people act that, they damage the empowerment of the prospective taskand confirm the strength of well-known and widely-held stereotypes such as math capabilities
  • 6. or leadership attitudes (Steele, 1995). Research on proactive personality informs us that moreproactive people tend to have a greater sense of self-determination in their work and career(Seibert, 1999). They are highly motivated to do well on given tasks and seek to improve theirwork outcomes. Prior research has found that people who are more proactive have higherentrepreneurial intentions (Spencer-Oatey, H., 2008). Proactive people have higher intentions ofbecoming self-employed and starting their own business rather than working for somebody elsecompared to less proactive people. Women who have a proactive personality are morepositively oriented towards taking initiative and affecting change in their circumstancescompared to less proactive women. These researchers believe that when more proactive womenhave higher entrepreneurial intentions, they will also tend to be more affected by stereotypethreat. The prediction that stereotype threat will affect proactive women more than other womenis supported by research that indicates that women who expect to be seen negatively because oftheir gender are more likely to forego opportunities to perform better and prove their abilitycompared to other women (Pinel, 1999). Additionally, there is some evidence to suggest thatproactive people are more sensitive to the impressions others have of them and are less likely toassociate themselves with controversial issues when they believe that it will create anundesirable impression about them (Hecht M. L., 2002). They tend to be more careful about thesocial costs of their actions and the potential risks to their social image. Taking manageriallearning skills among adults into consideration, when they are self-conscious of being the goodstudents, the ones likely to perform better, who tend to engage in self-handicapping behavior-such as staying out late the night before an important high school test- to protect their image inthe eyes of others or to deceive themselves that their performance is not a true reflection of theirability and capability approach (Hecht, M. L.; Warren, J. R.; Jung, E.; Krieger J. L. 2005).After reading these believes, it is likely to assume that proactive women may be more sensitiveto stereotype threat and be more concerned about maintaining their image. In this study we willexamine if proactive personality moderates the relationship between stereotype threat andentrepreneurial intentions. Specifically, we hypothesize that more proactive women will bemore vulnerable to stereotype threat compared to women who are less proactive. Some
  • 7. managerial scholars suggest that widely-held stereotype associating entrepreneurs withtraditionally masculine characteristics may be responsible for low entrepreneurial intentionsamong women (Fagenson & Marcus, 1991). These commonly-held stereotypes about managersmay lead women to negatively evaluate their ability to become an entrepreneur as well asperceive negative evaluations by others whose support they may need to pursueentrepreneurship, thereby suppressing their intentions to pursue entrepreneurship. Thus, webelieve that womens intentions to become an entrepreneur may be an important outcome that isaffected by stereotype threat.Research data Data for this study was collected from employees of an international, outsourcing ITfirm who was participating in in-company workshops, managed by me. I asked them for fillingand resending early prepared online in-depth interviews and then, after receiving the acceptanceof senior management, I decided to continue research by organizing in-company focus groupsinterviews. Data revealed that this company had a historically male-dominated atmosphere,though promotion of women and minorities of female workers had been emphasized in theprevious two decades. The workforce was between 10-15% managerial and approximately 22%female. Before the data collection, I held sixty four in depth interviews and then two focusgroups interviewing some managerial men and women as well as non-managerial women, sothat the unique experiences of managerial women, as different from male managers or allwomen employees could be more thoroughly understood. I recruited participants for theinterviews and focus groups by sending electronically an introductory letter to approximately200 randomly selected managerial men and women and non-managerial women. A randomlyselected subset of those who responded to the letter was contacted via telephone to schedule a
  • 8. meeting. All interviews were conducted on their workplace and were related to the workplacechange (e.g., layoffs, reengineering) at this time.Examples of some opinions of respondents about women’s leadership potential„Women managers are sometimes promoted only because they are women, they do not haveleading attitudes. Their potential is too weak because of early-stage socializing.” (Man, 34,System Engineer / Java Specialist)“Being compared to male managers, female managers’ success is more dependent upon havinga good mentor because they aren’t educated to be decisive in making decisions.” (Woman, 30,Graphic Designer)“According to my point of view, female managers are people too oriented on giving supportand caring to others. They are unconscious how to move up in the company.” (Man, 23,Software Development Manager)“It is not acceptable for women to assume leadership roles as often as men. Their assumptionsare too emotional and unpredictable. Women act to get better communication not to get the bestresults of trade.” (Man, 28, IT Project Specialist)“Women are not ambitious enough to be successful in the business world. They do not showtheir potential because the system of teaching and education, I think. Their natural leadershipapproach was deprived by social roles and pressure of human environment” (woman, 26, webdesigner)Beliefs regarding to the degree which women possess various traits thought to beuseful in managerial positions“On the average, a woman who stays at home all the time with her children is a bettermother than a woman who works outside the home at least half time.” (Woman, 33, ITSystem Support Specialist)“Women are less capable of learning mathematical and mechanical skills than aremen.” (Woman, 25, Graphic Designer)
  • 9. Opinions about managerial skills among women“Women are not naturally effective. They often adapt their behavior have a tendency toadapt some male behaviors” (woman, 45, IT middle management)“Men have a natural tendency for leadership.” (Man, 56, Software Department Supervisor)“Men trust in themselves. This creates a more relaxed and natural leadership.” (Man,31, IT middle management)“Men are much better at many of these leadership skills.” (Woman, 45, top management/ ITcore position)“Men are naturally thought and very results and income oriented.” (Man, 40, SystemEngineer)“In my last job I observed that women were so obsessed with trying to out-performtheir male counterparts that they often neglected the needs of their team.” (Woman, 39,Web Designer, Supervisor of Web Department)“Sometimes I get the impression they are playing “tough” although this is not theirnatural preference. This can be perceived as artificial and a bit unnerving, especiallywhen they are quite caring and soft in private.” (Man, 36, Online Sales Manager)“My experience with women leaders is that they are “turf tenders” because they havehad to adopt that behavior to get where they are and do not know how to get out of thatmode.” (Woman, 35, IT Product Manager)“Women are caught in a Catch-22 situation regarding leadership. If they are strongthey are seen to be aggressive, and if they work more in a consultative way they areseen to be weak...” (Woman, 35, Software Project Manager)“A lot of women managers still want to be liked, especially by their subordinates. They are notas prone to managing up." (Woman, 36, IT Support Specialist)
  • 10. „Women can be effective leaders as long as they are not impaired by wanting to be nice.”(Man, 30, System Engineer)“Women are very much focused on “being liked, being good” instead of making harsh andtough decisions.” (Man, 36, System Administrator)“Too many women managers assume that the leaders above them will take care of them.”(Woman, 33, IT Sales Specialist)“When women act in gender-consistent ways, they are perceived by others as beingweak leaders and entrepreneurs.” (Woman, 30, Web Designer)“Many women lack personal confidence and this [affects] their ability to effectively inspire....They are often defensive, more so than male colleagues, when challenged constructively.”(Man, 40, IT Senior Manager)“Women I have worked with tend to be excellent planners, good team builders. Many, however,Have a tendency to do more work than they need to as they are not always comfortabledelegating.” (Woman, 43, IT Software Designer)ConclusionProactive personality is an important determinant of individual, organizational, and teamoutcomes, and plays an important role when the environment is challenging or unfavorable,such as the one that most entrepreneurs face. The primary goal of this research was to examinethe role of proactive personality in moderating entrepreneurial intention responses to thecommonly-held masculine stereotype about entrepreneurs. Self-employed managers arecommonly attributed stereotypically masculine characteristics and women may not be perceivedto fit the image of an entrepreneur (Fagenson & Marcus, 1991). Some research supports thisprediction that proactive personality would moderate entrepreneurial intention responsesincluding research showing that stereotype threat is most acutely felt by women who are most
  • 11. likely to do well on the stereotyped task (Simon, 2004). In this study I predicted that moreproactive women would be more negatively influenced by the masculine stereotype aboutentrepreneurs whereas less proactive women will be less vulnerable to the influence of thestereotype. Thus, entrepreneurial intentions of more proactive women were believed to decreasesignificantly when exposed to the stereotype, while no such decrement was expected for lessproactive women. The above predictions were empirically tested and the results presented heresupport the prediction that women who are more proactive will be less inclined to become anentrepreneur after exposure to the stereotype. These data, taken together with the researchsuggesting that negative stereotypes have more detrimental influence on people who are moreidentified with the stereotyped domain (Steele, 1998), underscore the powerful impact ofstereotype threat on people belonging to marginalized groups (e.g. women). It is notable thatless proactive women did not show a significant decrease in their entrepreneurial intentionswhen exposed to the negative stereotypes. It should also be noted that less proactive women hadlow entrepreneurial intentions overall compared to more proactive women. Thus, even as thisresearch confirms the earlier finding that proactive personality may be positively related toentrepreneurial intentions, it also highlights the double-edged nature of proactive personality.The same proactive personality that provides advantage in many individual and organizationalcontexts can become a handicap in stereotype threat situations. There are a number oftheoretical and practical implications of this study. In terms of theoretical implications, thisresearch advances our understanding of gender stereotypes as an important influence onwomens entrepreneurial intentions. Specifically, this research points to the threatening role ofgender stereotypes in depressing womens entrepreneurial intentions. Additionally, our findingsextend the stereotype threat literature beyond academic performance to entrepreneurialintentions. Though stereotype researchers acknowledge the two-pronged consequence ofstereotype threat (Steele, 1998)--undermining both performance and aspirations amongstigmatized individuals in targeted domains--there has been an almost complete lack of researchon how stereotype threat can influence attitudes and aspirations of stigmatized individuals.Summing up, through a number of materials which have been investigated in the stereotype
  • 12. threat literature (Steele, 1998; Pinel, 1999; Spencer-Oatey, 2008), this research’s aim was toexamine the moderating role of proactive personality in the process of social identity changefinding out that the impact of stereotype threat on womens entrepreneurial intentions is relatedto proactive personality extends the scope of stereotype threat research.ReferencesAjzen, I. (1987). Attitudes, traits and actions: Dispositional prediction of behavior in personalityand social psychology. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology,20(1), Academic Press Inc., San DiegoBecherer, R. C., & Maurer, J. G. (1999). The proactive personality disposition andentrepreneurial behavior among small company presidents. Journal of Small BusinessManagement, 37(1)Brewer, M. B. and Gardner, W. (1996) Who is this “we”? Levels of collective identity and selfrepresentations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 71(1)Cejka, M. A., & Eagly, A. H. (1999). Gender stereotypic images of occupations correspond tothe sex segregation of employment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25(4)Davies, P. G., Spencer, S. J., & Steele, C. M. (2005). Clearing the air: Identity safety moderatesthe effects of stereotype threat on womens leadership aspirations. Journal of Personality andSocial Psychology, 88(2)Hall, S (1996). Questions of Cultural Identity : SAGE Publications Ltd.Hecht, M. L. (1993) 2002 - A research odyssey: toward the development of a communicationtheory of identity. Communication Monographs 60Fagenson, E. A., & Marcus, E. C. (1991). Perceptions of the sex-role stereotypic characteristicsof entrepreneurs: Womens evaluations. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 15(4)Fiske, S. T.,& Taylor, S. E. (1991). Social cognition (2nd. ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill BookCompanyKrueger, N. F. (2000). The cognitive infrastructure of opportunity emergence. EntrepreneurshipTheory and Practice, 24 (3)Mitchell, R.K., Smith, B., Morse, E.A., Seawright, K.W., Peredo, A.M., McKenzie, B. 2002.Are entrepreneurial cognitions universal? Assessing entrepreneurial cognitions across cultures.Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, 26 (2)Mueller, S. L., & Thomas, A. S. (2000). A case for comparative entrepreneurship: Assessing therelevance of culture. Journal of International Business Studies, 31Pinel, E. C. (1999). Stigma Consciousness: The psychological legacy of social stereotypes.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(1)
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