Date of Degree

9-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Catherine Good

Committee Members

Virginia Valian

Cheryl Carmichael

Aneeta Rattan

Subject Categories

Social Psychology

Keywords

sexism, organizational climate, identity safety, organizations

Abstract

Sexism has proven to be a stubborn barrier to women’s participation and advancement in workplaces and academic institutions (Rosette, Akinola, & Ma, 2017). Importantly, sexism in organizational settings has endured despite the implementation of federal, state, and organizational policies that prohibit discriminatory behavior. One reason for this may be that because organizational policies are typically written for the purpose of complying to federal and state laws, they do little to foster psychological safety among employees and address the “chilly” organizational climates that enable sexism. To that end, the current research aimed to (a) develop novel, evidence-based sex discrimination policies and test their effect on women’s perceptions of organizational climate, sexism, and psychological identity safety; and (b) test a model of antecedents (e.g., policies and climate) and consequences (e.g., safety, interest, and performance) of sexism in an organization.

Across three study groups, participants were randomly assigned to read job recruitment materials from a company with either a standard, EEOC-based policy or with an evidence-based sex discrimination policy (developed for the purpose of this research). Study Group 1 (N=415 across three studies) found that each component of an evidence-based policy – a broad definition of sexism, an injunctive norm, and a transparent reporting plan – was effective in shifting at least one aspect of perceived organizational climate, operationalized as gender diversity, inclusion of women, justice, and leadership. Across all three sub-studies, women viewed a company with an evidence-based policy as having a “warmer” organizational climate and lower tolerance of sexism. Study 2 (N=199 across two studies) found that a combined evidence-based policy, via shifting perceptions of climate and tolerance of sexism, boosts women’s feelings of trust in and belonging to a company. Study 3 (N=334) found that women expressed a stronger interest in applying to organizations with an evidence-based policy and believed they would have greater professional success when imagining themselves as employees. The research also found evidence for a model of antecedents and consequences of sexism in an organization. In the model, an evidence-based sex discrimination policy leads to warmer organizational climates. Climate, in turn, predicts lowered expectations of sexism, which then predicts greater psychological identity safety. Finally, perceived sexism and safety predict performance expectations, while perceived climate, sexism, and safety predict interest in a company. The present research not only contributes to existing literature on the antecedents and consequences of sexism, but also results in a concrete tool that organizations of every ilk can deploy for the foundation of bias-free, identity-safe climates.

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