Prescriptive Gender Stereotypes and Backlash Toward Agentic Women



In an experiment, job description and applicants' attributes were examined as moderators of the backlash effect, the negative evaluation of agentic women for violating prescriptions of feminine niceness (Rudman, 1998). Rutgers University students made hiring decisions for a masculine or “feminized” managerial job. Applicants were presented as either agentic or androgynous. Replicating Rudman and Glick (1999), a feminized job description promoted hiring discrimination against an agentic female because she was perceived as insufficiently nice. Unique to the present research, this perception was related to participants' possession of an implicit (but not explicit) agency-communality stereotype. By contrast, androgynous female applicants were not discriminated against. The findings suggest that the prescription for female niceness is an implicit belief that penalizes women unless they temper their agency with niceness.