Benevolent sexism at work: gender differences in the distribution of challenging developmental experiences

Eden B. King, Whitney Botsford, Michelle R. Hebl, Stephanie Kazama, Jeremy F. Dawson, Andrew Perkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current research draws from ambivalent sexism theory to examine potential gender differences in the quantity and quality of developmental work experiences. In a sample of managers in the energy industry, men and women reported participating in a similar number of developmental experiences (with comparable levels of support), but men rated these experiences as more challenging and received more negative feedback than did women. Similarly, a sample of female managers in the health care industry reported comparable amounts, but less challenging types, of developmental experiences than their male counterparts'. The results of three complementary experiments suggest that benevolent sexism is negatively related to men's assignment of challenging experiences to female targets but that men and women were equally likely to express interest in challenging experiences. Taken together, these results suggest that stereotype-based beliefs that women should be protected may limit women's exposure to challenging assignments, which in turn may partially explain the underrepresentation of women at the highest levels of organizations. © The Author(s) 2012.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1835-1866
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Management
Issue number6
Early online date1 Apr 2010
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • developmental work experiences
  • gender
  • glass ceiling
  • sexism


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