SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Women who pursue or possess power are at risk for backlash, defined as social and economic penalties for defying stereotypic expectations (Rudman, 1998). Rule-based gender stereotypes stipulate acceptable behaviors for women and men and when these rules are violated, perceivers react negatively. We review research demonstrating the Catch-22 that female leaders face, such that they are required to display agency to overcome the lack of fit between their gender and leadership yet when they do so, they risk prejudice and hiring discrimination (i.e., backlash). Our review reveals how this dilemma encumbers women in all aspects of their career. We consider factors that moderate the likelihood of backlash effects and describe recent research that sheds light on the mechanisms responsible for negative reactions toward women striving for positions of power. Finally, we discuss the implications of backlash for preserving stereotypes in the culture-at-large and the gender status quo and suggest directions for future research.