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Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis: EWU Only

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS) in Psychology: Clinical




The purpose of the present study was to explore whether or not agentic stereotypes attributed to lesbian and masculine appearing women would provide an advantage in obtaining employment. Previous research has shown that lesbian women are favored over heterosexual women, and masculine appearing individuals are favored over feminine appearing individuals for traditionally masculine jobs. The present study contributes to this body of research in that it examines the role of appearance for lesbian women (in addition to heterosexual women), as well as the potential mediating role of agency in these hiring decisions. I predicted that the lesbian and masculine appearing applicants would be attributed more agentic stereotypes than heterosexual and feminine appearing women and that this would lead to higher agency and hireability ratings, as well as a higher salary. Participants in the present study were 222 undergraduate university students. They read a job description for “Executive Director,” followed by a vignette of a female job applicant, which included an image of a woman with more masculine or feminine facial features. They then rated the applicant on agentic traits, how hirable they thought she would be, how much they would pay her, and how high they assessed her salary allotment to be. As predicted, the lesbian applicant was perceived to be higher in agency, which accounted for higher hireability ratings than the heterosexual applicant. She was not allotted a higher salary, but participants assessed the salary they gave her to be higher. Compared to the feminine applicant, he masculine applicant was rated as more agentic and was given a higher salary (an effect not mediated by agency perceptions), but was not seen as more hirable. Results of this study suggest that lesbian women may benefit from “outing” themselves to employers when applying for traditionally masculine jobs in order to exploit the benefits of the stereotypes attributed to them. 2 Masculine Stereotypes of Lesbian Women and Masculine-Looking Women: The Potential Advantages of Assumed Agentic Qualities in Employment Is being stereotyped always a bad thing? That may very well depend on the context of the situation in which a particular stereotype is present. Given the right circumstances, certain stereotypes might actually provide an advantage. Consider, for example, employers preparing to make important hiring decisions. Their choice might be affected by the various stereotypes that they hold for their applicants. Therefore, one individual might have an advantage over another if he or she happens to fall into a group with stereotypes better suited for the current position. In fact, there is such a hierarchy based on sex that currently pervades the workplace (Eagley & Karau, 2002; Heilman, 1983; Heilman & Eagley, 2008). For example, men tend to earn higher wages and advance to leadership positions at a much faster rate than women (Heilman & Eagly, 2008). This pattern may be due, at least in part, to stereotypic expectations about the differing competencies of men and women (Eagley & Karau, 2002; Heilman, 1983). But what about individuals who do not fit neatly into these traditional gender norms? Stereotype research has shown that lesbian women are actually thought to be more similar, in terms of trait characteristics, to heterosexual men than to heterosexual women (Blashill & Powlishta, 2009; Kite & Deaux, 1987; Wright & Canetto, 2009). Additionally, masculine appearing women are often attributed stereotypes more in line with leadership roles (Sczesny, Spreeman & Stahlberg, 2006) and may be favored for such positions over women who are feminine in appearance (Stockhausen, Koeser & Scezny, 2013). The purpose of the present study was to explore whether or not these masculine stereotypes of lesbian and masculine appearing women provide an advantage in obtaining traditionally masculine jobs.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.