Language as a barrier and facilitator for women's career progress

Horvath, Lisa Kristina; Sczesny, Sabine (24 May 2013). Language as a barrier and facilitator for women's career progress (Unpublished). In: 16th Conference of European Association of Work & Organizational Psychology (EAWOP). Münster, Deutschland. 22.05.-25.05.2013.

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When applying for leadership positions or acting as leaders, women are still perceived with a ‘lack of fit’, thus hired less likely and evaluated less favorably than their male counterparts. In many languages, different language forms can be used to refer to both women and men: masculine forms (e.g., CEO in German: ‘Geschäftsführer’) and alternative forms (e.g., feminine‐masculine word pairs, CEO in German ‘Geschäftsführerin/Geschäftsführer’). We assumed that the use of masculine forms endorses the ‘lack of fit’ for women in leadership, whereas alternative forms reduce it.
Two studies tested the hypotheses by manipulating language forms (masculine forms vs. alternative forms) and gender of the target to hire/evaluate (female vs. male).
The results indicated as predicted that masculine forms lead to the ‘lack of fit’ for women in the leadership context, whereas alternative forms reduce it. Women were less likely to be employed for leadership positions (Study 1) and evaluated less favorably as leaders (Study 2) than their male counterparts with masculine forms. However, with alternative forms no differences in employment decisions and evaluations of women and men were found.
These two studies were conducted with student‐samples. Further research is needed to replicate effects with relevant samples as HRmanagers and to investigate underlying mechanisms.
Research/Practical Implications
Organizations may use alternative forms instead of masculine forms in job advertisements for leadership positions to overcome barriers for women in leadership.
These are the first studies in testing the effects of language forms in the leader selection and evaluation.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Social Neuroscience and Social Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Horvath, Lisa Kristina, Sczesny, Sabine


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Irène Gonce-Gyr

Date Deposited:

20 Nov 2014 09:57

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:31


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