Why are women penalized for success at male tasks? The implied communality deficit

Madeline E. Heilman, Tyler G. Okimoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 3 experimental studies, the authors tested the idea that penalties women incur for success in traditionally male areas arise from a perceived deficit in nurturing and socially sensitive communal attributes that is implied by their success. The authors therefore expected that providing information of communality would prevent these penalties. Results indicated that the negativity directed at successful female managers - in ratings of likability, interpersonal hostility, and boss desirability - was mitigated when there was indication that they were communal. This ameliorative effect occurred only when the information was clearly indicative of communal attributes (Study 1) and when it could be unambiguously attributed to the female manager (Study 2); furthermore, these penalties were averted when communality was conveyed by role information (motherhood status) or by behavior (Study 3). These findings support the idea that penalties for women's success in male domains result from the perceived violation of gender-stereotypic prescriptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-92
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Communal prescriptions
  • Penalties for success
  • Prescriptive gender stereotypes
  • Sex discrimination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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