Male and Female Assumptions About Colleagues' Views of Their Competence


Requests for reprints should be sent to Madeline E. Heilman, Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, Room 550, New York, NY 10003.


In an attempt to determine what working men and women believe their male and female colleagues think of them, an experiment was conducted with 100 insurance company employees. They were led to believe that their (fictional) co-workers were male or female and, after working jointly on a task, were told that their joint performance was “poor” or “superior.” Subjects were then asked to indicate their perceptions of how their co-workers viewed them. Results indicated that, as predicted, women anticipated-more negative reactions than men, both in the degree of responsibility that would be attributed to them for the pair's success or failure and in descriptions with respect to achievement-relevant attribute attributes. This perception of negativity prevailed whatever the sex of the co-worker. The results were considered in terms of the self-fulfilling cycle that such perceptions are apt to create for women in work settings.