Complimenting women employees for being collaborative or socially skilled could backfire, finds a study that showed how US women feel more frustrated than men by the gendered expectations placed on them at work as compared to those in India.
The researchers at Cornell University, US, found that culture influences the way that women and men respond to gender stereotypes.
The research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, showed that women in India did not experience the same feelings of anger and frustration, as the positive gender stereotypes aligned with cultural goals.
In the paper, the team examined how women feel about positive gender stereotypes in the US and India.
They found that women report more anger and frustration when they were expected to be collaborative or socially skilled than men experienced when they were expected to be assertive or decisive.
But Indian women did not experience the same feelings, as the positive gender stereotypes align with cultural goals.
“In the Western world, people tend to strive to maintain an autonomous sense of self. But while Western society is subtly communicating that an ideal self is an autonomous, independent self, society is also telling women that they should be interdependent and connected to others,” said Devon Proudfoot, Assistant Professor of human resource studies in the ILR School at Cornell University.
“We find that this conflict helps explain women’s frustration toward the positive gender stereotypes they experience.”
The study also found that women themselves view qualities like collaborativeness and skill at interaction as relevant to success and advancement at work.
Still, when women and men are faced with positive gender stereotypes, women experience more frustration and less motivation to comply with the expectation than men, according to Proudfoot.
It is because “women and men face gender stereotypes that differ in the extent to which they affirm a sense of autonomy”, she said, adding: “Reinforcing these types of gender stereotypes could have negative emotional and motivational consequences for women in the workplace.”