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Exploring the Asymmetrical Effects of Gender Tokenism on Supervisor–Subordinate Relationships


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Katherine M. Ryan, Department of Psychology, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, MSN 3F5, Fairfax, VA 22030. E-mail:


Drawing from social identity theory, this research examines scarce gender representation as a contextual condition that inhibits same-gender supervisors' support. Survey results in Study 1 found that when women were proportionally underrepresented, they reported feeling less supported by female supervisors than male supervisors. Study 2 showed that women who perceived they were gender tokens in their organization were less likely to support an outstanding female subordinate than an identical male. Study 3 experimentally tested social mobility as a mechanism for the effects of tokenism on same-gender supervisor support. Results suggest that social mobility and group composition jointly affect ratings of same-gender targets. Perceptions of gender-based social mobility appear to be one mechanism through which tokenism influences same-gender relations at work.