The vagaries of sex bias: Conditions regulating the undervaluation, equivaluation, and overvaluation of female job applicants

Madeline E. Heilman, Richard F. Martell, Michael C. Simon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The present study sought to identify the conditions under which women are undervalued, equally valued, and overvalued relative to men when seeking nontraditional jobs. An experiment was conducted in which 241 college students reviewed the work sample of a male or female applicant for a job that was either extremely male or moderately male in sextype. In addition, the applicant was depicted as either unequivocally high in performance ability or no information about his/her performance ability was provided. As expected, results indicated that unless information of high-performance ability was provided, women's competence and likely career success were undervalued relative to men's. Also as predicted, when given high-ability information, women seeking the moderately sextyped job or the extremely sextyped job were equally valued or overvalued, respectively. Gender-related work effectiveness characterizations closely paralleled these evaluations, lending support to the idea that sex stereotypes and the cognitive distortion they promote mediate not only gender consistent but also gender contrast biases in the evaluation of women. Implications of these results, both conceptual and practical, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-110
Number of pages13
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1988


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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