Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Backlash in the Labor Market

Marina M. Gorsuch, Duke University

Laboratory experiments in social psychology have established that when women behave in traditionally masculine ways, they experience a “backlash” for violating norms of femininity (Bowles, Babcock, and Lai 2006; Heilman and Chen 2005; Heilman, Wallen, Fuchs, and Tamkins 2004; Rudman and Glick 1999; Rudman 1998; Rudman and Glick 2001). This backlash may have an economic impact, because many behaviors needed for success in the workplace are viewed as masculine. In this two-stage project, I first establish if more assertive resumes inspire backlash against female job applicants in a laboratory setting and if this backlash varies by the applicant’s sexual orientation. In the second stage of this project, I examine if the laboratory findings extend to an audit study when these resumes are used to apply to job advertisements. This study connects findings from lab-based studies in social psychology to differences in economic outcomes in population-representative studies from economics and demography.

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Presented in Session 94: Gendered Contexts, Gendered Implications: Demographic Processes in Family, School, and Work in the U.S.