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Code of empowerment or oppression? Factors contributing to women’s perception of modern day sexism in the workplace: An exploratory study

Hinman, Kimberly

The existence of sexism in American society is well known but seldom remedied in modern-day workplaces. One method of understanding this is to turn to third and fourth-wave feminism, which promote a meritocratic belief system, highlighting the importance of individual empowerment, personal agency, and success. Third and fourth-wave feminism have been criticized for lacking theory, as well as for inadvertently fortifying sexism by neglecting systemic and structural forces of discrimination. Coupled with the current emphasis on political correctness in American society, overt expressions of sexism (hostile sexism) have become subtler or even imperceptible (benevolent sexism). Therefore, the study explored how women internalize benevolent and hostile sexism in the workplace. The goal of the study was to investigate what women perceive is the cause of being denied a promotion at work: personal failings (internal locus of causality) or systemic external forces related to sexism (external locus of causality). The results revealed attributions of stability and controllability are important in determining causality for both hostile and benevolent sexism conditions, but not for the no sexism control condition. An advanced feminist identity is related to internalized hostile sexism when the scenario is perceived as unstable, whereas denial of sexism is related to internalized hostile sexism regardless of other factors. Both primary and advanced stages of feminist identity are related to internalized benevolent sexism when the scenario is perceived as unintentional. Meritocracy beliefs are directly related to internalized benevolent sexism. Meritocracy beliefs do not directly impact internalization of hostile sexism after taking into account feminist identity and other attributional factors. Therefore, a sense of empowerment may be most detrimental for modern day forms of sexism.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Counseling Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Gushue, George V.
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 30, 2019