n Gender and Behaviour - Between a rock and a hard place : backlash towards agentic women aspiring to high ranking jobs in Nigeria



A quasi experimental study was conducted to investigate hiring decisions of equally competent men and women aspiring to an executive management position. Participants (N = 300) assessed male and female agentic, communal and androgynous applicants on dimensions of competence, social skills and hireability. Findings in this study did not report any gender differences in perceptions of male and female's competence and social skills however male and female participants perceived agentic male applicants to be more hireable to the executive management position than agentic female applicants. The findings suggest that on a conscious level there is an attempt to be objective in the assessment of women but in hiring decisions an unconscious bias is reflected. Peculiar to this study is the equally poor rating of agentic men's social skills; this suggests that the communal nature of the Nigerian culture influenced participants' perceptions and that communality is important in this culture. Consequently, behaviour that is not gender appropriate, in line with traditional gender roles is especially problematic for women relative to men even when the assessor is a woman. Women who lack communality and behave in a manner that does not conform to culturally prescribed gender roles are likely to face discrimination in hiring situations. The subtle manifestation of prejudicial bias as found in this study can discourage highly skilled women from actualizing their potential by desisting to strive to more challenging positions in the workplace.


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