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Differential effects of female and male candidates on system justification: Can cracks in the glass ceiling foster complacency?


Correspondence to: Elizabeth Brown, Department of Psychology, Montana State University, PO Box 173440, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA.



Despite women's increasing representation in elected offices across a range of countries, women remain a minority of elected officials. Although greater gender equality in political leadership may be assumed to promote gender equality in other domains,’ the presence of female candidates might ironically facilitate attitudes associated with legitimizing gender inequality. Using experimental methods, we demonstrate that the presence of a female political candidate, relative to a male political candidate, leads to greater beliefs that the sociopolitical system is just (Experiment 1), greater legitimacy of the gender status hierarchy (Experiment 2), and greater implicit preference for stability (Experiment 3). Ironically, within a context in which women are generally underrepresented as political leaders, the increasing presence of women as political candidates might lead’ to stronger legitimization of the current sociopolitical system, potentially inhibiting social change. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.