Stereotypes, cultural variation, and perceptions of competence

From the NY Times, via Lemmings, we learn of a study suggesting that whatever traits a culture values in the workplace, women are taken to lack those traits:

In 2006, Catalyst looked at stereotypes across cultures (surveying 935 alumni of the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland) and found that while the view of an ideal leader varied from place to place — in some regions the ideal leader was a team builder, in others the most valued skill was problem-solving. But whatever was most valued, women were seen as lacking it.

Respondents in the United States and England, for instance, listed “inspiring others” as a most important leadership quality, and then rated women as less adept at this than men. In Nordic countries, women were seen as perfectly inspirational, but it was “delegating” that was of higher value there, and women were not seen as good delegators.

The NY Times article contains loads of useful data on gender stereotypes and perception in the workplace. Though some of the studies seem a little dodgy to me. For example this one, which at least appears (haven’t had time to read it) to make some rather bold assumptions about what women find sexually attractive.

He is the author of one such study, in which he showed respondents a video of a woman wearing a sexy low-cut blouse with a tight skirt or a skirt and blouse that were conservatively cut. The woman recited the same lines in both, and the viewer was either told she was a secretary or an executive. Being more provocatively dressed had no effect on the perceived competence of the secretary, but it lowered the perceived competence of the executive dramatically. (Sexy men don’t have that disconnect, Professor Glick said. While they might lose respect for wearing tight pants and unbuttoned shirts to the office, the attributes considered most sexy in men — power, status, salary — are in keeping with an executive image at work.)

If salary were really what women found *sexy*, you’d expect to see photo-spreads of dumpy middle-aged men and their big paychecks whenever advertisers wanted to appeal to heterosexual women. What’s with the models with six-packs and chiseled jawbones? Don’t they know that does nothing for women??

4 thoughts on “Stereotypes, cultural variation, and perceptions of competence

  1. I remember reading this. That tight pants thing just confused the hell out of me because if some dude came up to me in tight pants trying to sexy I’d probably have to laugh out loud. Seriously — tight pants? Unless your Bono and you’re wearing leather, tight is bad. BAD. (IMHO)

  2. Indeed. But Donald Trump in tight trousers? Even worse. And apparently that should really get me going. (I can’t even bring myself to say “Donald Trump in tight pants” because ‘pants’ means underwear here.)

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