Marta zientek paper cambridge journal of education special issue the capability approach deadline 31.07.11
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Marta zientek paper cambridge journal of education special issue the capability approach deadline 31.07.11 Document Transcript

  • 1. Gender-role stereotypes and learner’s notion of self-identity in the capability approach Marta Zientek, PhD student Jagiellonian University / Cracow University of EconomicsTheoretical BackgroundSocial identity is one of several themes within personality study that bridge the individual, relationaland collective elements of self. It is an idea that is addressed in all major theories of personality eitherexplicitly or implicitly, a fact that indisputably supports the centrality of constructs that connectindividual, relational and collective aspects of the human experience. The idea of social identity notonly serves to integrate a range of theories and theoretical propositions about the self, but also fits wellas a theme for students who are grappling with their identities as they make serious decisions abouttheir prospective occupations or existed roles in a company’s workplace. It’s obvious that linksbetween social identity theory and aspects of personality exist and that both influence citizenship.Social identities are defined as cognitive constructs or labels that reflect identification with multiplesocial niches or roles. These group memberships may include those related to an individual’s family,neighborhood, community or social class. These aspects of identity are considered to be broader inscope than roles, as they provide central motivational and self-regulatory functions across time andcircumstance, even as roles change significantly or disappear from view. It is also important to notethat social identities can be both general and specific in scope (e.g. student vs. engineering student;dancer vs. classical Indian dancer) and that they may reflect general ideas of group identification aswell as highly specific implementations of habits. Social identities may also persist in shapingbehaviors and personality, even as roles change quite radically or disappear. As a personalityconstruct, social identity is also complicated because it is a noun that sounds like an object or state, butin fact represents ongoing social cognitive processes and social interactions, especiallycommunication. For example, a social identity is considered to embody a type of self-categorization orlabelling, but also represents a series of social comparisons and behavioral decisions made in privateself-reflective conversation, as networks of self/other attributions, or as observable social enactments.A good example of such processes may be made of the teenager learning to fit in with a peer group.Acceptance and participation in the group may involve all the elements of modelling, including amongmany elements, the imitation of nuanced language, dress, interests, and attitudes toward otherindividuals or groups. Development of a group membership identity is also likely to include anongoing self-labelling process in relation to the group (being a member of professionals which Icooperate with) and communication of these identities through self-labelling or self presentation(clothes, badges or other extensions). Such labelling may ensure that one is notified of group events,and may convince others that one is indeed committed to the group and available for participation inrelated activities. The identity label may also help to resolve conflicts within the individual regardingallocation of time and finances, as it guides prioritisation of actions in order to ensure status orinclusion. Finally, self-observation and feedback from others within and outside the group may shape
  • 2. and hone the identity by providing information, validation, and by modelling new or refined aspects ofroles. 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 a particularsocial setting (e.g. family identities of spouse and parent) may be mutually reinforcing andconceptually connected. These roles and identities may work together in establishing a broad array ofbehavioral patterns that lead to a strong sense of social integrity. This deeper and consciousengagement may provide ongoing motivation even when the environment is less supportive or whenaspects of the identity are less salient or are changing (e.g. when one changes jobs or moves to anothercity). Proactive personality refers to the extent to which people are willing to take action to influencetheir environments. More proactive people are relatively unconstrained by situational forces and arewilling to affect environmental change. They show initiative, identify opportunities, act on them, andpersevere until they meet their objectives. They confront and solve problems, and take individualresponsibility to make an impact on the world around them. They anticipate environmental changesand take advantage of opportunities to improve their situation. Proactive behavior involves steppingforward to either improve current situations and circumstances or to create new ones. However, humanexperiences, social roles, and identities do not always align so neatly. In fact, people often discoverintense conflicts between common identities, and personal, relational, and collective experiences. Suchconflicts have long been the subject of psychological inquiry because they very often lead toindividual and group fragmentation with varied consequences, some mundane and some dire to humandevelopment issue. Both the process of categorization using cultural symbolic categories and finallylabeling through stigmatization can be a good background to stereotypes which refer to the humantendency to categorize people into general groups based on attributes such as gender and then todevelop beliefs about characteristics and behavior of individual members of these groups. Gender maybe a universal dimension for a special labeling - stereotyping people because it is a visually prominentphysical feature that enables people to quickly sort others into two distinct categories--men andwomen (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). This categorization, widely shared beliefs about characteristicsattributed to men and women, are commonly held in society and well-documented in the literature.Men and women are believed to differ on social traits (often labeled communal) as well asachievement-oriented traits (often labeled agentic). Women are commonly believed to have morecommunal qualities (expressiveness, connectedness, relatedness, kindness, supportiveness, timidness)whereas men are associated with more agentic qualities (independence, aggressiveness, autonomy,instrumentality, courage). These stereotypes tend to be oppositional in nature--the characteristicspositively associated with men (e.g. aggressiveness, autonomous) are considered undesirable forwomen and vice versa (e.g. kind, supportive). They not only describe how men and women are(descriptive stereotypes) but also how they should be (prescriptive stereotypes). Descriptive andprescriptive stereotypes are not mutually exclusive. Instead, there is a great deal of overlap betweenthe two, with the behavior that is prescribed directly related to the attributes that positively describemembers of the stereotyped group by prescribing appropriate behavior for members of two groups, aswell as produce gender-role stereotypes. Expectations and beliefs concerning the different qualitiesthat men and women bring to their work often dictate the type of jobs that are considered appropriatefor them, leading to a situation in which the requisite characteristics for some jobs are defined in terms
  • 3. of gender, and those jobs become known as mens work or womens work. This gender typing of jobsas predominantly masculine or feminine is common across different social groups in society. Forexample, stereotypes related to engineering, surgery, and judiciary are predominantly masculine whilethose associated 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 seen as awomans job. These commonly-held stereotypes build gender stigma, they reflect and promote gendersegregation in employment (Cejka & Eagly, 1999), and usually serve to limit opportunities forwomen. Stereotype researchers argue that gender stereotypes can have a profound influence onpeoples career intentions. When people perceive a lack of fit between their characteristics and thestereotypes associated with a particular task, their intentions to pursue that task are lower than thosewho perceive a stronger fit. If people believe that there is a lack of fit between themselves and task-related stereotypes, they negatively evaluate their ability to engage in that task and also perceivenegative evaluations by others whose support they may need to perform well on the task. Thesenegative evaluations reduce their likelihood of pursing the stereotyped job. Considerable empiricalevidence confirms that women aspire to tasks that are associated with their gender, while preferring tostay away from those that are not associated with their gender. The theory of stereotype threat (Steele,1992, 1997) highlights the important role of negative stereotypes in undermining the aspirations andperformance of targets of stereotype. According to this theory, people from negatively stereotypedgroups (e.g. women entrepreneurs) for whom task-related stereotypes are made salient, show adecrement in performance and aspirations on the targeted task. When people are made aware ofstereotypes related to their social group and they believe that they may be judged based on thesestereotypes, they become vulnerable to the threat of the stereotype (Steele, 2005). Scholars argue thatstereotype threat leads to decrease in performance on the stereotyped task because peoplepsychologically disengage from that task (Crant, 1997). If stereotype threat can lead to disengagementfrom stereotyped tasks, it is likely that it may also cause people to disengage from traditionallystereotyped career domains. Entrepreneurship and self-employed managers’ researchers believe thatentrepreneurship is stereotypically positively associated with masculine characteristics and negativelywith feminine characteristics (Ahl, 2006; Fagenson & Marcus, 1991). Thus, when women arepresented with a masculine stereotype about managers, we expect them to socialy disengage fromentrepreneurship, which in turn, should decrease their intentions to become an entrepreneur. It issociologically maintained that this perceptionof what others believe or of how others treat managerialwomen, specifically when consideredfrom the viewpoint of managerial women, is similar to theconcept of stereotype threat (Steele, 1997). This concept has been defined as “the social-psychologicalthreat that arises when one is in a situation for which a negative stereotype about one’s group applies”(p. 614). Stereotype threat, scholars emphasize, is a "situational predicament" experienced only whenthe negative stereotype applies (Steele, 1997). In other words, stereotype threat is felt only insituations where one is vulnerable to negative stereotypes about ones group. When people believe thata negative or unfavorable stereotype about their group applies in the situation, they disengage from thetask and confirm the stereotype (Steele, 1995). If the influence of the stereotype is situational,elimination of the situational factors that generate the threat should help alleviate the threat. When thefactors that create the threat in the first place are eliminated, people are able to psychologically relate
  • 4. to the task again and perform to their actual potential (Steele, 2002). When the stereotypes are well-known and widely-held (e.g. math, leadership), stereotype threat tends to be strong and enduring.Ironically, stereotype threat is most keenly felt by those who care most about doing well on thestereotyped task (Steele, 1998). Individuals who believe in their ability to do well on the stereotypedtask or who care about the social consequences of being judged incompetent on that task are morelikely to disengage themselves from the task, and confirm the stereotype (Steele, 1997). Research onproactive personality informs us that more proactive people tend to have a greater sense of self-determination in their work and career (Seibert, 1999). They are intrinsically motivated to do well onthe task and seek to improve their work outcomes. This leads us to expect that stereotype threat has astronger impact on those who are more, rather than less, proactive. In other words, stereotype threat islikely to have a significantly detrimental effect on entrepreneurial intentions of women who are moreproactive, compared to those who are less proactive. Prior research has found that people who aremore proactive have higher entrepreneurial intentions (Spencer-Oatey, H. ,2008). Proactive peoplehave higher intentions of becoming self-employed and starting their own business rather than workingfor somebody else compared to less proactive people. Women who have a proactive personality aremore dispositionally oriented towards taking initiative and affecting change in their circumstancescompared to less proactive women. These researchers believe that when more proactive women havehigher entrepreneurial intentions, they will also tend to be more affected by stereotype threat. Theprediction that stereotype threat will affect proactive women more than other women is supported byresearch that indicates that women who expect to be seen negatively because of their gender are morelikely to forego opportunities to perform better and prove their ability compared to other women(Pinel, 1999). Additionally, there is some evidence to suggest that proactive people are more sensitiveto the impressions others have of them and are less likely to associate themselves with controversialissues when they believe that it will create an undesirable impression about them (Hecht M. L., 2002).They tend to be more careful about the social costs of their actions and the potential risks to theirsocial image (Crant, 1999). Taking managerial learning skills among adults into consideration, whenthey are self-conscious of being the good students, the ones likely to perform better, who tend toengage in self-handicapping behavior- such as staying out late the night before an important highschool test- to protect their image in the eyes of others or to deceive themselves that their performanceis not a true reflection of their ability (Hecht, M. L.; Warren, J. R.; Jung, E.; Krieger J. L. 2005). Webelieve it is likely that proactive women may be more sensitive to stereotype threat and be moreconcerned about maintaining their image. In this study we will examine if proactive personalitymoderates the relationship between stereotype threat and entrepreneurial intentions. Specifically, wehypothesize that more proactive women will be more vulnerable to stereotype threat compared towomen who are less proactive. Some managerial scholars suggest that widely-held stereotypeassociating entrepreneurs with traditionally masculine characteristics may be responsible for lowentrepreneurial intentions among women (Fagenson & Marcus, 1991). These commonly-heldstereotypes about managers may lead women to negatively evaluate their ability to become anentrepreneur as well as perceive negative evaluations by others whose support they may need topursue entrepreneurship, thereby suppressing their intentions to pursue entrepreneurship. Thus, webelieve that womens intentions to become an entrepreneur may be an important outcome that is
  • 5. affected by stereotype threat.Research dataData for this study was collected from employees of an international, outsourcing IT firm who wereparticipating in in-company workshops, managed by me. I asked them for filling and resending earlyprepared online in-depth interviews and then, after receiving the acceptance of senior management, Idecided to continue research by organizing in-company focus groups interviews. Data revealed thatthis company had a historically male-dominated atmosphere, though promotion of women andminorities of female workers had been emphasized in the previous two decades. The workforce wasbetween 10-15% managerial and approximately 22% female. Before the data collection, I held sixtyfour in depth interviews and then two focus groups interviewing some managerial men and women aswell as non-managerial women, so that the unique experiences of managerial women, as differentfrom male managers or all women employees could be more thoroughly understood. I recruitedparticipants for the interviews and focus groups by sending electronically an introductory letter toapproximately 200 randomly selected managerial men and women and non-managerial women. Arandomly selected subset of those who responded to the letter were contacted via telephone toschedule a meeting. All interviews were conducted on their workplace and were related to theworkplace change (e.g., layoffs, reengineering) at this time.Opinions of respondents and statements about women’s leadership potential.„Women managers are sometimes promoted only because they are women”“Compared to male managers, female managers success is more dependent upon having a goodmentor.”“Compared to male managers, female managers are too .people oriented. and caringto move up in the company.”“It is not acceptable for women to assume leadership roles as often as men.”Beliefs regarding the degree to which women possess various traits thought to be useful in managerialpositions. “Women are not ambitious enough to be successful in the business world.”“On the average, a woman who stays at home all the time with her children is a better mother than awoman who works outside the home at least half time.”“Women are less capable of learning mathematical and mechanical skills than are men.”Opinions about managerial skills among women.
  • 6. “Women are not naturally effective. They often adapt their behavior have a tendency toadopt some male behaviors” (woman, age 41-45, middle management)“Men have a natural tendency for leadership.” ( man, age 56-60, top management)“Men trust in themselves. This creates a more relaxed and natural leadership.” (man, age 31-35,middle management)“Men are much better at many of these leadership skills.” (woman, age 45-54, top management/coreposition)Men can be naturally tough and very results oriented ( man, age 36-40, middle management)“Women were so obsessed with trying to out-perform their male counterparts that they oftenneglected the needs of their team.” (man, age 35-44, professional non-managerial position)“Sometimes I get the impression they are playing “tough” although this is not their naturalpreference. This can be perceived as artificial and a bit unnerving, especially when they are quitecaring and soft in private.” (man, age 36-40, middle management)“My experience with women leaders is that they are “turf tenders” because they have had to adoptthat behavior to get where they are and do not know how to get out of that mode.” (woman,age45-54, top management)“Women are caught in a Catch-22 situation regarding leadership. If they are strong they are seen tobe aggressive, and if they work more in a consultative way they are seen to be weak...” (woman, age46-50, top management)„Women can be effective leaders as long as they are not impaired by “wanting to be nice.”(woman, age 36-40, top management)“A lot of women managers still want to be liked, especially by their subordinates. They are not asprone to “managing up." (woman, age 65+, top management)“Women are very much focused on “being liked, being good” instead of making harsh and toughdecisions.” (man, age 36-40, middle management)Many women lack personal confidence and this [affects] their ability to effectively inspire.... Theyare often defensive, more so than male colleagues, when challenged constructively.” (man, age46-50, top management)“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 comfortable delegating.”(woman, age 45-54, middle management)“Too many women managers assume that the leaders above them will take care of them.” (woman,age 45-54, top management)“When women act in gender-consistent ways, they are perceived by others as being weak leaders andentrepreneurs.” (woman, age 30, top management)
  • 7. Conclusion.Proactive personality is an important determinant of individual, organizational, and team outcomes,and plays an important role when the environment is challenging or unfavorable, such as the one thatmost entrepreneurs face. The primary goal of this research was to examine the role of proactivepersonality in moderating entrepreneurial intention responses to the commonly-held masculinestereotype about entrepreneurs. Self-employed managers are commonly attributed stereotypicallymasculine characteristics and women may not be perceived to fit the image of an entrepreneur(Fagenson & Marcus, 1991). Some research supports this prediction that proactive personality wouldmoderate entrepreneurial intention responses including research showing that stereotype threat is mostacutely felt by women who are most likely to do well on the stereotyped task (Simon, 2004). In thisstudy I predicted that more proactive women would be more negatively influenced by the masculinestereotype about entrepreneurs whereas less proactive women will be less vulnerable to the influenceof the stereotype. Thus, entrepreneurial intentions of more proactive women were believed to decreasesignificantly whe exposed to the stereotype, while no such decrement was expected for less proactivewomen. The above predictions were empirically tested and the results presented here support theprediction that women who are more proactive will be less inclined to become an entrepreneur afterexposure to the stereotype. These data, taken together with the research suggesting that negativestereotypes have more detrimental influence on people who are more identified with the stereotypeddomain (Steele, 1998), underscore the powerful impact of stereotype threat on people belonging tomarginalized groups (e.g. women). It is notable that less proactive women did not show a significantdecrease in their entrepreneurial intentions when exposed to the negative stereotypes. It should also benoted that less proactive women had low entrepreneurial intentions overall compared to moreproactive women. Thus, even as this research confirms the earlier finding that proactive personalitymay be positively related to entrepreneurial intentions, it also highlights the double-edged nature ofproactive personality. The same proactive personality that provides advantage in many individual andorganizational contexts can become a handicap in stereotype threat situations. There are a number oftheoretical and practical implications of this study. In terms of theoretical implications, this researchadvances our understanding of gender stereotypes as an important influence on womens
  • 8. entrepreneurial intentions. Specifically, this research points to the threatening role of genderstereotypes in depressing womens entrepreneurial intentions. Additionally, our findings extend thestereotype threat literature beyond academic performance to entrepreneurial intentions. Thoughstereotype researchers acknowledge the two-pronged consequence of stereotype threat (Steele, 1998)--undermining both performance and aspirations among stigmatized individuals in targeted domains--there has been an almost complete lack of research on how stereotype threat can influence attitudesand aspirations of stigmatized individuals. Summing up, through a number of materials which havebeen investigated in the stereotype threat literature (Steele, 1998; Pinel, 1999; Spencer-Oatey, 2008),this research’s aim was to examine the moderating role of proactive personality in the process ofsocial identity change finding out that the impact of stereotype threat on womens entrepreneurialintentions is related to proactive personality extends the scope of stereotype threat research.ReferencesAjzen, I. (1987). Attitudes, traits and actions: Dispositional prediction of behavior in personality andsocial 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 and entrepreneurialbehavior among small company presidents. Journal of Small Business Management, 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 to the sexsegregation of employment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25(4)Davies, P. G., Spencer, S. J., & Steele, C. M. (2005). Clearing the air: Identity safety moderates theeffects of stereotype threat on womens leadership aspirations. Journal of Personality and SocialPsychology, 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 communication theoryof identity. Communication Monographs 60
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