Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour
Gender Identity; Role Models; Stereotype Threat; Work Satisfaction; Workplace Social Support;
ABSTRACT - Globally across OECD countries, increasingly more women than men are graduating from a higher education institution with at least a bachelor’s degree (OECD, 2017), yet women continue to be highly underrepresented in top leadership positions around the world.What can explain the stark workplace and economic gender inequity despite the growing pool of educated women? One key contributor to gender inequity in the workplace is the psychological experience of women, and decades of research have found that concerns about confirming negative gender stereotypes in professional contexts can hinder women’s motivation, performance, and engagement, all of which can ultimately contribute to the exacerbation of workplace gender inequity.This research explores whether and in what way(s) social support from different workplace sources (role models, formal and informal mentors/sponsors, supportive supervisors, and peer support) benefit and protect women’s psychological resilience to disrupt the negative cycle of gender inequity.SCIENTIFIC ABSTRACT - This research examines the psychological benefits of different sources of workplace social support in a global sample of professional women leaders (N = 1,221). The authors explored whether and in what way(s) social support from different workplace sources (role models, formal and informal mentors/sponsors, supportive supervisors, and peer support) predicts women’s experience of stereotype threat - or concerns about confirming gender stereotypes - and subsequently their work satisfaction.The authors did this using cross-sectional data from a survey of international graduate business school alumnae who represented 72 countries, were mostly from Generation X (63.4% aged 35–54), reported directly to General Management or had more senior roles (64.1%), and described their work responsibilities as regional or global (66.4%).Workplace role models emerge as the only statistically reliable predictor of work satisfaction indirectly through reduced stereotype threat concerns. However, role models, informal (but not formal) mentors/sponsors, supportive supervisors, and peer support all directly predict women’s work satisfaction.Implications of the benefits of workplace social support for efforts to reduce work-related gender inequities are discussed.