Exposure to successful women: Antidote to sex discrimination in applicant screening decisions?

Madeline E. Heilman, Richard F. Martell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research is designed to examine the proposition that exposure to the successes of women in traditionally male occupations will mitigate against subsequent sex bias in selection decisions. Prior to making initial screening decisions about a male or female applicant for a traditionally male job, i.e., finance manager trainee, 147 college students read an editorial documenting the successful performance of an individual woman or a group of women employed in a nontraditional job that either was or was not related to the job about which the personnel recommendations were to be made. A neutral information group read an editorial unrelated to women or work. As predicted, the discrepant ratings of male and female applicants in the neutral baseline condition were significantly reduced only when the information presented concerned a group of women and there also was a direct connection between the occupation in which they were successful and the occupation for which the screening decision was being made. Additional analyses supported the idea that this effect was due to the lessening of the stereotypie attributes used to characterize the female applicants. These results suggest that although exposure to successful women in heretofore male dominated occupations can reduce sex bias in personnel selection decisions, the conditions under which this is likely to occur are very limited. The implications of these results, both theoretical and practical, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-390
Number of pages15
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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