The third barrier, Reactive Opposition, illustrates that women who display assertive traits (not including anger) and are clearly competent in masculine sex-typed positions will be deemed as competent as men, but are viewed as less likeable and more hostile than successful men. Independent of competence, likeability predicts advantage in career-affecting outcomes in evaluation and reward allocation. As highly assertive women take authority outside of traditionally female sex-typed jobs, they are likely to encounter reactive opposition to their authority.
Women appear to be able to reduce this opposition by “softening” assertive, competent behaviors to increase their influence. Heilman and Okimoto found that providing clear evidence of communality in the workplace (e.g. sensitive to the needs of his/her staff) had no effect on the ratings of fictional male leaders but improved women’s ratings of likeability above those of equivalently competent men, and equalized assessments of boss interpersonal hostility for men and women.
Negativity toward competent women can also be reduced for those who show evidence of being homemakers, mothers, or volunteers in areas of social-need representations of female-gendered behavior in the male context of leadership. Correll et al. experimentally manipulated parenthood in employment-related ratings, and found that motherhood penalized female applicants on perceived competence and starting salary, whereas, fatherhood benefited men. Moreover, while successful women in male-sex typed roles (leadership) appear to face negative consequences for violating social norms, women leaders can also be penalized if they do not show clear evidence of work-related communality or if they show too much non-work related communality by being a mother. This balancing act between assertive and communal behaviors continually requires adjustment-negotiating behaviors not traditionally required of men.
This barrier is illustrated by the New Hampshire debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The facilitator asked, “Senator Clinton, the people of New Hampshire think you are competent, but they don’t like you. How do you explain that?” Now YOU can answer that question based on evidence. During each debate, Hillary’s daughter was present in the audience. That was a good idea.
- Describe times where you felt like others viewed you as hostile when you thought you were acting competent.
The Expression of Anger
Stereotype-based expectations are tenacious and are resistant to disconfirming information. Competent women may interpret receiving less credit on a task as failure or get angry at feeling ignored. Brescoll and Uhlmann found that the expression of anger by an applicant improved men’s evaluations and lowered women’s, particularly women in high-status positions. Having a specific external cause for anger (such as losing an account) lessened but did not eliminate the negative bias toward the women study participants. Even though external attribution for anger improved status and salary ratings for women who expressed anger, it had no impact on their lower-competence rating. Women who are competent in male sex-typed roles may produce negative reactions and lower ratings simply because their competence violates the prescriptive norms for female behavior. This appears to be particularly true for women who exhibit anger, considered a male emotion. Unfortunately, anger ultimately compounds problems for women if they react to the stereotypical assumptions of men’s superior competence.
Describe a time when your display of anger did not benefit you.