IS IT ALL IN THE NUMBERS? A Case Study of Tokenism


  • The authors thank Suzanna Rose and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. This paper was presented at the meetings of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, August 1984. Requests for reprints should be sent to the first author at Webster University, 470 E. Lockwood, St. Louis, MO 63119.


The purpose of the present study is to explore whether the negative consequences of tokenism are the result of imbalanced proportions alone, or whether society-wide sex role stereotypes which affect male and female tokens differently are also a factor. Men working at concession stands at an amusement attraction were assigned by the experimenters to one of two work groups in which the numbers of women and men were either skewed or balanced. Unlike a token woman at the attraction, these token male workers did not experience the negative consequences of tokenism (visibility, contrast, and assimilation). In fact, token men identified with supervisors and advanced more quickly than their non-token counterparts of both sexes. The results are interpreted as indicating that underrepresentation alone cannot explain the negative effects of tokenism for women.