Motivated to penalize: Women's strategic rejection of successful women

Elizabeth J. Parks-Stamm, Madeline E. Heilman, Krystle A. Hearns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two studies tested the hypothesis that females penalize women who succeed in male gender-typed jobs to salvage their own self-views regarding competence. The authors proposed that women are motivated to penalize successful women (i.e., characterize them as unlikable and interpersonally hostile) to minimize the self-evaluative consequences of social comparison with a highly successful female target. Results supported the hypothesis. Whereas both male and female participants penalized successful women, blocking this penalization reduced female-but not male-participants' self-ratings of competence (Study 1). Moreover, positive feedback provided to female participants about their potential to succeed (Study 2) weakened negative reactions to successful women without costs to subsequent self-ratings of competence. These results suggest that the interpersonal derogation of successful women by other women functions as a self-protective strategy against threatening upward social comparisons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-247
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Backlash effects
  • Motivated reasoning
  • Norm violation
  • Penalties for success
  • Prescriptive gender stereotypes
  • Social comparison

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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