Workplace gender discrimination and the implicit association test

  • Jo-Anne Kandola

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Women are under-represented at senior levels within organisations. They also fareless well than their male counterparts in reward and career opportunities. Attitudestoward women in the workplace are thought to underpin these disparities and moreand more organisations are introducing attitude measures into diversity and inclusioninitiatives to: 1) raise awareness amongst employees of implicit attitudes, 2) educateemployees on how these attitudes can influence behaviour and 3) re-measure theattitude after an intervention to assess whether the attitude has changed. TheImplicit Association Test (IAT: Greenwald, et al., 1998) is the most popular tool usedto assess attitudes. However, questions over the predictive validity of the measurehave been raised and the evidence for the real world impact of the implicit attitudes islimited (Blanton et al., 2009; Landy, 2008; Tetlock & Mitchell, 2009; Wax, 2010).Whilst there is growing research in the area of race, little research has explored theability of the IAT to predict gender discrimination. This thesis addresses thisimportant gap in the literature. Three empirical studies were conducted. The firststudy explored whether gender IATs were predictive of personnel decisions thatfavour men and whether affect- and cognition-based gender IATs were equallypredictive of behaviour. The second two studies explored the predictive validity ofthe IAT in comparison to an explicit measure of one type of gender attitude,benevolent sexism. The results revealed implicit gender attitudes were stronglyheld. However, they did not consistently predict behaviour across the studies.Overall, the results suggest that the IAT may only predict workplace genderdiscrimination in a very select set of circumstances. The attitude component that anIAT assesses, the personnel decision and participant demographics all impact thepredictive validity of the tool. The interplay between the IAT and behaviour thereforeappears to be more complex than is assumed.
Date of Award10 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aston University
SupervisorStephen A Woods (Supervisor) & Ann Davis (Supervisor)


  • gender discrimination
  • implicit association test
  • implicit attitudes
  • explicit attitudes
  • personnel decisions

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