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Progress in women’s representation in top leadership weakens people’s disturbance with gender inequality in other domains


Journal of Experimental Psychology: General


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Georgeac O;Rattan A


Publication Year



Conventional wisdom suggests that progress for women in the domain of top leadership representation will naturally spread to other domains of gender inequality, whether in organizations or beyond. Extending social-cognitive theories of exemplar-based information processing to the study of social progress perceptions for stigmatized groups, we theorized that perceiving substantial female representation in top leadership may instead reduce people’s concern with ongoing gender inequality in other domains. Study 1 (N=331) finds that perceiving greater female representation in top corporate echelons decreases people’s disturbance with the gender pay gap, but not with wealth inequality generally. Study 2a (N=350) and its replication Study 2b (N=1,098) present correlational evidence of the proposed psychological mechanism: an overgeneralization of women’s access to equal opportunities. Study 3 (N=454) provides experimental evidence for this psychological process, tests attributions of the gender pay gap to women’s personal career choices as an alternative mechanism, and introduces a control condition to determine the directionality of the effect. Study 4 (N=326) replicates and extends the basic effect across various domains of gender inequality within and outside of the workplace. Taken together, these studies highlight the importance of acknowledging the fragmented nature of social progress across domains of inequality, and highlight the psychological underpinnings of a previously-overlooked potential barrier for progress toward gender equality.


Perceptions; Overgeneralization; Gender diversity; Gender inequality; Top leadership

Available on ECCH


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