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Image by Annie Spratt

Gendered Work Cultures

Gender seeps into our cultural systems, creating invisible biases that contribute to gender segregation. Given their historical hold on power, men more so than women have influenced human cultures at broad (e.g., national) and localized (e.g., organizational) levels, imbuing them with values, reward structures, interaction styles, and behavioral norms and standards that align with the male gender role. In many cases, the workplace becomes the perfect arena for men to actively perform and demonstrate their manhood by

competing aggressively with others for dominance and status. Organizations with these kinds of norms place women at a disadvantage, contributing to gender segregation. In one line of research at SRBL, we focus on understanding how these gendered cultures emerge and how they operate, what their consequences are, and how they might be challenged.

For example, in one project, we investigate how women manage their social identity in workplace cultures characterized by strong masculinity contest norms. Past research shows, when women are in the minority, they tend to distance psychologically from their gender social identity. In a series of experiments, we investigated systematically how perceiving a workplace culture characterized by strong masculinity contest norms can trigger a self-group distancing response in women (Veldman & Vial, 2023). These studies reveal that the female social identity is greatly devalued (i.e., viewed as low status) in workplaces with strong masculinity contest norms. As a result, women distance themselves from their gender group identity in these kinds of workplace contexts as a way to cope with the devaluation of the female social identity. Doing so allows them to enhance their personal sense of status in workplace contexts with strong male norms.


These findings have important theoretical implications, shedding light on the psychological mechanisms that promote self-group distancing. They also have practical implications, because self-group distancing has negative consequences for individuals’ mental health as well as for gender diversity goals. As such, self-group distancing may be an important mechanism whereby strong masculine work cultures undermine the well-being and participation of women, encouraging them to pursue work in other domains in which their gender social identity is not devalued.

Veldman, J. & Vial, A. C. (2023). Masculinity contest cultures lead to self-group distancing in women.

Manuscript in preparation.

Further research on gendered workplace cultures:

Vial, A. C. & Cowgill, C. (2023). Masculinity norms at work decrease prosocial behavior by promoting an instrumental mindset. Manuscript in preparation.

Vial, A. C., Muradoglu, M., Newman, G., & Cimpian, A. (2022). An emphasis on brilliance fosters the perception of masculinity contest cultures. Psychological Science, 33(4), 595-612. PDF.

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