Opting out or denying discrimination? How the framework of free choice in American society influences perceptions of gender inequality

Nicole M. Stephens, Cynthia S. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

American women still confront workplace barriers (e.g., bias against mothers, inflexible policies) that hinder their advancement at the upper levels of organizations. However, most Americans fail to recognize that such gender barriers still exist. Focusing on mothers who have left the workforce, we propose that the prevalent American assumption that actions are a product of choice conceals workplace barriers by communicating that opportunities are equal and that behavior is free from contextual influence. Study 1 reveals that stay-at-home mothers who view their own workplace departure as an individual choice experience greater well-being but less often recognize workplace barriers and discrimination as a source of inequality than do mothers who do not view their workplace departure as an individual choice. Study 2 shows that merely exposing participants to a message that frames actions in terms of individual choice increases participants' belief that society provides equal opportunities and that gender discrimination no longer exists. By concealing the barriers that women still face in the workplace, this choice framework may hinder women's long-term advancement in society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1231-1236
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Science
Volume22
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Keywords

  • choice
  • culture
  • discrimination
  • gender
  • prejudice
  • sociocultural factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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