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Gender differences in self-enhancement and impression management strategies: evidence from field studies in female- and male-dominated environments

  • Despite various efforts to decrease gender differences in organizations and the underrepresentation of females in management positions, progress is little. However, efforts can only be effective if the source of the problem is identified and understood. Thus, a considerable number of studies has been carried out in an attempt to understand which aspects facilitate the underrepresentation of females in management (e. g., Joshi, Son,& Roh, 2015; Niederle & Vesterlund, 2007; Eagly & Karau, 2002). Research has shown that the reason for the gender disparity in leading positions is twofold. First, individual differences in characteristics and behavior are compelling predictors of gender imbalance in organizations (Bass & Bass, 2009; Joshi & Roh, 2009; Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002; Mumford et al., 2000). Second, current research on gender inequality emphasized that some work contexts seem to be more vulnerable to this phenomenon (Joshi & Roh, 2009; Gardiner & Tiggemann, 1999). Although the topic is ubiquitous and has been widely discussed in various disciplines, research has often been conducted within the confines of laboratory settings, and field research neglected to systematically include the work context as an explanatory variable. In order to shed new light on this issue, the work presented here investigated gender differences in career-relevant psychological aspects and behaviors, depending on the position and the female/male dominance of work environment. In a literature review, three constructs emerged that have not been systematically explored in the workplace as potential indicators of gender differences in managers and non-managers. Therefore, cognitive reflection, confidence in one’s own skills, and deceptive behavior were investigated in three field studies, looking directly at females and males in leading and non-leading positions in female- and male-dominated fields. Study 1a and 1b focused on the examination of the constructs within the private sector. Female and male managers and non-managers in multiple companies in Germany from the male-dominated manufacturing and the female-dominated service sector were surveyed. Results indicated a strong influence of business sectors on gender differences in self-image and work-related behavior. In order to cope with gender-incongruent work environments, males and females followed different strategies. In the female-dominated service sector, males coped with the incongruency by engaging in impression management by being overconfident as well as using self-enhancement by deceiving. In contrast to males, females only engaged in self-enhancement by deceiving in the male-dominated manufacturing sector. Both strategies were used to appear in a more positive light and to cope with the gender-incongruent workplace. Study 2 examined the three constructs in the government sector, more specifically, in female and male politicians from Germany’s national and its sixteen state parliaments and civil servants. In contrast to the private sector, males and females did neither use self-enhancement nor impression management strategies. This finding was surprising as the underrepresentation of females is an issue in both, business and politics. Overall, the findings of the present work on cognitive reflection, confidence and deception shed new light on gender differences as overconfidence and deception functioned as impression management and self-enhancement strategies for males and females to manage the demands of female- and male-dominated industries. In contrast, this does not apply for politics where those strategies were not used. Moreover, the results suggest that the investigation of female- and male-dominated environments is crucial to explain the behavior of females and males and truly provides a better understanding of gender differences at work.

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Author:Jennifer Willoh
Referee:Anja Achtziger, Carlos Alós-Ferrer
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Year of Publication:2020
Date of first Publication:2020/08/20
Publishing Institution:Zeppelin Universität
Granting Institution:Zeppelin Universität
Date of final exam:2019/08/20
Release Date:2020/08/20
Tag:Social and economic psychology, organizations, leadership, workplace, gender inequality, gender differences, economic psychology, self enhancement, overconfidence
Page Number:XVII, 135 Seiten
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich geschützt