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Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2015 Feb;41(2):295-307. doi: 10.1177/0146167214564969. Epub 2014 Dec 22.

A company I can trust? Organizational lay theories moderate stereotype threat for women.

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Indiana University, Bloomington, USA
Indiana University, Bloomington, USA.


Women remain under-represented in the leadership of corporate America. According to stereotype threat theory, this under-representation may persist because women are concerned about being stereotyped in business settings. Three studies investigated whether an entity (fixed), compared with an incremental (malleable), organizational lay theory is threatening for women evaluating a consulting company. Men and women viewed a company mission statement or website containing an entity or incremental theory. Results revealed that women--more so than men--trusted the entity company less than the incremental company. Furthermore, only women's mistrust of the entity company was driven by their expectations about being stereotyped by its management. Notably, when combined with high or low representations of female employees, only organizational lay theories predicted trust. Finally, people's--particularly women's--mistrust of the entity company led them to disengage more before interacting with a representative. Implications for women's experiences and outcomes in workplace settings are discussed.


disengagement; gender stereotypes; organizational lay theories of intelligence; organizational trust; stereotype threat theory

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