Masculinity, Status, and Subordination: Why Working for a Gender Stereotype Violator Causes Men to Lose Status
Men working for female supervisors in male-dominated fields receive lower salaries and lose social status due to their lower perceived masculinity.
Anthropological research shows that different cultures construct different models of appropriate manhood, which are both difficult to achieve and precarious. The workplace is an especially important setting for masculinity to be enacted, evaluated, and validated. When men work in highly feminized occupations (e.g., preschool education, nursing), their masculinity may be called into question, and as a result, men in these occupations tend to engage in strategies to reassert their masculinity. In this paper, the authors investigate whether a man working in a gender incongruent role (such as a man who works for a female supervisor in a traditionally masculine industry or a man who serves as a supervisor in a traditionally feminine industry) has a negative affect on how others rate his status and his annual salary when compared to other individuals assigned in gender congruent conditions. The authors assessed this question by asking participants to read scenarios describing these roles then they rate the workers’ status and assign them an annual salary.
Men who work for women in stereotypically male dominated fields (or work for men in female stereotypical fields) are accorded less status, and in turn, a lower salary. There is no difference for women.
- Male subordinates of gender-atypical supervisors were accorded lower status, assigned lower salaries, and perceived as significantly less masculine than male subordinates of supervisors in gender-congruent roles.
- Men who worked for stereotype incongruent supervisors received lower salaries, with a mean salary of $53,371, than men who worked for stereotype congruent supervisors, with a mean salary of $72,173. In contrast, there was no salary difference for female subordinates, who worked for stereotype-incongruent vs. congruent supervisors.
- The status loss for men with gender-incongruent supervisors was mediated by a perceived lack of masculinity. When male subordinates affirmed their masculinity with conventionally masculine hobbies, they received more status than men whose masculinity was not affirmed in that way (7.91 versus 5.10 on a scale of 1 to 11). Additionally, men who affirmed their masculinity received a higher salary than men who did not ($78,285 compared to $50,606, respectively).
In short, working for a supervisor whose gender is incongruent with their field of work—a male nurse or a female engineer—can carry significant social and economic costs for men, but not for women.
The authors conduct two studies analyzing the relationship between gender deviant supervisors and male subordinates. In Study 1, 73 women and 47 men were randomly assigned to read a scenario that described a male or female assistant, his or her supervisor, and the type of work they did (construction site supervision vs. human resources). Participants were randomly assigned to read scenarios involving either male or female workers in workplaces with either gender-congruent or gender-incongruent supervisors. They were then asked to rank the worker in their scenario in terms of the status, power, and independence they felt he or she deserved, assign them a yearly salary, and rate them according to masculine or feminine traits. In Study 2, the authors experimentally manipulated perceived masculinity to establish its validity as a mediator of bias.