COMPETENT YET OUT IN THE COLD: SHIFTING CRITERIA FOR HIRING REFLECT BACKLASH TOWARD AGENTIC WOMEN

Authors


  • Julie E. Phelan, Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, and Laurie A. Rudman, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Julie E. Phelan, Department of Psychology, Tillett Hall, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 53 Avenue E, Piscataway, NJ 08854–8040. E-mail: jephelan@eden.rutgers.edu

Abstract

We present evidence that shifting hiring criteria reflects backlash toward agentic (“masterful”) women (Rudman, 1998). Participants (N= 428) evaluated male or female agentic or communal managerial applicants on dimensions of competence, social skills, and hireability. Consistent with past research, agentic women were perceived as highly competent but deficient in social skills, compared with agentic men. New to the present research, social skills predicted hiring decisions more than competence for agentic women; for all other applicants, competence received more weight than social skills. Thus, evaluators shifted the job criteria away from agentic women's strong suit (competence) and toward their perceived deficit (social skills) to justify hiring discrimination. The implications of these findings for women's professional success are discussed.

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