Testing a Theory of Hybrid Femininity

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Principal investigator:

Julia Melin

Stanford University

Email: jmelin@stanford.edu

Homepage: https://sociology.stanford.edu/people/julia-melin

Sample size: 1682

Field period: 05/07/2019-11/04/2019

Although men experience advantages working in highly feminized occupations, they are commonly stigmatized as lesser men by outsiders—the people they meet outside of their occupations—for doing “women’s work.” This experiment is designed to assess whether a woman who has worked in a hypermasculine occupation would similarly be stigmatized as a lesser woman by workers outside of her hypermasculine occupation, or alternatively, whether she would be viewed more favorably by such outsiders for doing “men’s work.” Specifically, this study aims to develop and empirically test a theory of hybrid femininity, which specifies the conditions under which hypermasculinity as signaled through occupation creates status and reward distinctions among women in external labor markets. The experiment asks respondents to provide recommended compensation and status ratings for a woman candidate while manipulating the gender-typing of her occupational history as well as her intended target job. By disentangling the underlying mechanisms driving these predicted status and reward differences, this study seeks to shed light on how gender inequality persists, even among women, through the privileging of masculinity over femininity, with important implications for the labor market and society at large.
Does hypermasculinity as signaled through occupation create status and reward distinctions among women in external labor markets?
Experimental Manipulations
Respondents were each presented with a task overview, followed by a job description, and a single fictitious woman applicant’s résumé. Within each condition, manipulations included: 1) the gender-typing of the job description along one axis (i.e., a male-dominated, female-dominated, or gender-neutral job), and 2) the gender-typing of the woman applicant’s occupational history along the other axis (i.e., a hypermasculine or hyperfeminine occupation).

Respondents’ recommended compensation (i.e., salary and bonus) for the applicant.

Respondent’s perceptions of the applicant’s competence, commitment, reliability, and leadership ability (i.e., measures of perceived status).

Respondent’s perceptions of the applicant’s masculinity and femininity.

Summary of Results
Results show that when transitioning into male-dominated and gender-neutral target jobs, women candidates working in hypermasculine occupations are compensated significantly more than equally qualified women working in hyperfeminine occupations. When transitioning into a female-dominated job, however, compensation differences are indistinguishable. Additionally, results show that women in hypermasculine occupations are viewed overall as being more masculine, more competent, and better leaders, and that these perceived status distinctions largely mediate compensation differences.