The Subtle Exploitation and Patronization of Women in Masculine Domains

Open Access
Bloodhart, Brittany Paige
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
June 18, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Janet Swim, Thesis Advisor
  • patronization
  • discrimination
  • sexism
  • stereotyping
  • exploitation
This research explored mechanisms driving subtly sexist behavior in the form of patronizing behavior and exploitation that can result in women’s underrepresentation in masculine domains. Because some women are stereotyped as warm but incompetent (e.g., housewives) while others are stereotyped as competent but cold (e.g., business women), discrimination may function differently for these different groups of women. More specifically, women who display warmth should be stereotyped as belonging to the low competence-high warmth (LC-HW) group, and thus be perceived as incompetent, while women who display competence should be stereotyped as belonging to the high competence-low warmth (HC-LW) group, and thus be perceived as cold. Based on links between competence and warmth and treatment of others, LC-HW women should be patronized (i.e., given praise but not valued tasks) (Vescio et al., 2005) while HC-LW women should be exploited (i.e. given valued tasks but not praise). Men, on the other hand, are stereotyped as both competent and warm, and should be given both valued tasks and praise when they display only one characteristic. One hundred thirty-three undergraduate participants were led to believe they would be the leader of a group in which they had to assign tasks and provide praise to group members. They were provided with manipulated information about either competence or warmth (HC or HW) for female and male targets. Results support a general halo effect for perceptions of competence and warmth such that women and men who were described as warm were assumed to be competent and those described as competent were assumed to be warm. In addition, general patterns of gender stereotyping and discrimination were found: women were generally seen as warmer than men, and men were generally given more valued tasks than women. Although not significant, findings support past research demonstrating patronizing behavior toward both HC and HW women, and possible exploitation toward HC men, as defined by giving valued task but less praise. Implications for the use of exploitation in the study and possible variations of this pattern are discussed.