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Mind the gap: the relationship between cross-gender interactions and sexism

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Gender inequality, especially in male-dominated fields, remains a persistent issue in North America. Gender stereotypes and sexism may, in part, be responsible for such inequality, with benevolent ideals about women being warm but incompetent (and thus in need of protection) often hindering the advancement of women. While intergroup contact is typically effective in reducing prejudicial attitudes, sexist beliefs and stereotypes often persist despite frequent, often intimate, interactions between men and women. Ridgeway's Status Construction Theory (SCT; 1998), which proposes that contact could instead reinforce the stereotypes that lead to status differences between groups, could explain this paradoxical phenomenon. My dissertation examined core three core tenets of the SCT in the context of gender relations, with three sets of studies examining how sexist beliefs about the status of men and women manifest unequal influence hierarchies in otherwise "equal-status" interactions (Study 1), how direct experiences of unequal contact between men and women predict sexist status beliefs (Study 2), and how vicarious observation of unequal interactions between men and women impact subsequent sexism and stereotyping (Experiments 3a-c). Furthermore, status deconstruction in the face of counter-stereotypical cross-gender contact, where women were more dominant than men, was also investigated. Findings were mixed: Study 1 provided evidence that sexism predicted subsequent unequal behavioural dynamics in cross-gender interactions; Study 2 and cross-sectional data from Experiments 3a-c provided evidence that engagement in and observation of male-dominated cross-gender interactions predicted sexist beliefs, though causal relationships could not be established as experimental results were non-conclusive. In terms of status deconstruction, findings suggested the link between counter-stereotypical cross-gender contact and sexist beliefs was more complex than expected, with most findings being inconclusive or counter to prediction. However, additional exploratory analyses of the data has provided clear and testable hypotheses for future research.
217 pages.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Wright, Stephen
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