Motivated to Penalize: Women's Strategic Rejection of Successful Women
Elizabeth Parks-Stamm, Madeline Heilman & Krystle Hearns
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, February 2008, Pages 237-247
Two studies tested the hypothesis that females penalize women who succeed in male gender-typed jobs to salvage their own self-views regarding competence. The authors proposed that women are motivated to penalize successful women (i.e., characterize them as unlikable and interpersonally hostile) to minimize the self-evaluative consequences of social comparison with a highly successful female target. Results supported the hypothesis. Whereas both male and female participants penalized successful women, blocking this penalization reduced female-but not male-participants' self-ratings of competence (Study 1). Moreover, positive feedback provided to female participants about their potential to succeed (Study 2) weakened negative reactions to successful women without costs to subsequent self-ratings of
competence. These results suggest that the interpersonal derogation of successful women by other women functions as a self-protective strategy against threatening upward social comparisons.