One hundred and seventy-five male and female college-bound high school students reviewed a description of a managerial job, indicated their interest in the job, and rated it on a number of descriptive dimensions. The proportion of women currently holding this position (8%, 28%) and how they came to acquire their jobs (merit, preferential treatment based on gender, no information) were systematically varied. Results indicated that increased proportions of women job-holders produced greater job interest among females only when it was believed they had acquired their positions on the basis of merit. Furthermore, lower job interest among males was evidenced in preferential treatment as compared to merit conditions. An additional finding of note was the tendency for males to treat no information about position acquisition as they did information of preferential treatment and for females to treat no information about position acquisition as they did information of merit-based placement. The implications of these findings for affirmative action programs are discussed.
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