Impact of Socio-cultural Context on the Susceptibility of Female Managers to Stereotype Threat

Clara Susanne Neuhauser

Student thesis: Master thesis


The present study investigates the impact of the socio-cultural context on the susceptibility of female managers to stereotype threat. Stereotype threat is defined as a circumstance which “prevents members of negatively stereotyped groups to perform up to their full ability” (Appel & Kronberger, 2012, p. 609). For women in management this can occur when they fear being evaluated on the basis of a negative stereotype attached to their gender (e.g. “women do not fit into the manager role”). Negative effects of stereotype threat on the professional aspirations and performance of women pursuing a career in predominantly male fields have been documented by previous research (Hoyt & Murphy, 2016). Given the influence of social and cultural factors on gender stereotypes (Eagly & Karau, 2002) as well as on individual key moderators of stereotype threat (Baron, Schmader, Cvencek, & Meltzoff, 2014; Feitosa, Salas, & Salazar 2012), the author of this study assumes that the socio-cultural context has an impact on how susceptible women in management are to stereotype threat. This effect was tested by an independent samples t-test, using validated subscales to measure the overall susceptibility to stereotype threat (Picho & Brown, 2011) for female managers from two culturally distinct samples. The samples consisted of 31 women in Germany and 32 women in Spain. Additionally, participants were asked about their experiences with gender-related interactions in professional contexts. A content analysis was conducted to analyze their comments and identify patterns and differences in the experiences of female managers with gender-related treatment. Findings of this study revealed a significant difference in management identification between German and Spanish women in management. Differences in gender stigma consciousness, gender identification and the overall susceptibility to stereotype threat were non-significant. Nonetheless, this study obtained valuable insights into how female managers perceive their treatment at work in relation to their gender. Results show amongst others that it is still commonplace for women in management to be treated and evaluated based on existing gender stereotypes. These outcomes can serve as a starting point for companies’ diversity strategies, which need to place more focus on the sensitization of employees to negative gender stereotypes and their explicit or implicit activation by certain attitudes and behavior in the organizational context. Future research might consider addressing limitations of the present research, which for the most part consist in its relatively small samples and thus a limited generalizability of the results. This study contributes to existing management literature, as it is the first one that attempts to quantitatively assess the impact of the socio-cultural context on the stereotype threat susceptibility of female managers.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Diversity and Change Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages43
SupervisorsJacobo Ramirez