The Female Threat: Reactions to Increased Representation of Women in Traditionally Male-dominated Domains

Laura Hildebrand, Purdue University


A burgeoning literature indicates that people experience threat when presented with information about increasing diversity. Yet, most of this literature has focused on increasing racial diversity. In the present research, we examine how people respond to increased representation of women in traditionally male-dominated domains, including (a) what type of threat is elicited and (b) who is most likely to experience this threat. Men and women participants completed several sexism measures and read that the number of women was increasing (versus a neutral condition) in politics (Study 1) and engineering (Study 2). Then participants completed measures of realistic, group status, prototypicality, and symbolic threat. In Study 2 we also assessed the self-relevance of the male-dominated domain to the participant’s identity. Although Study 1 produced nonsignificant results, including the personal relevance predictor in Study 2 revealed that people high in hostile sexism for whom engineering was self-relevant experience group status threat (threat to status of men and prestige of engineering) in response to increased representation of women in engineering. Both men and women experienced this threat. These results pave the way for future research to examine the downstream consequences of this threat and how to combat it.




Monteith, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Psychology

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