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Self-Stereotyping and Career Decisions

It’s become a well-established fact that stereotypes play a large role in the gender imbalances in certain career fields as well as in leadership roles across fields. However, people hold stereotypes not only about others but also about themselves. This article by Tanja Hentschel and Lisa Horvath shines a light on self-stereotyping, describing its role in producing gender imbalances and giving readers practical tips on how to reduce its influence.

One major way that self-stereotyping influences people’s career decisions is via what are called lack of fit perceptions. The idea (going back to Heilman’s lack of fit theory) is that people assess how well suited they are to positions and fields by comparing their self-stereotypes with what they perceive to be necessary for working in the relevant position or field. This might lead a woman to be less likely to apply for a leadership position or a degree in engineering if she has internalised stereotypes about women not being assertive enough or good enough at more technical subjects.

The good news is that we can all start working on self-stereotypes without further ado. Some strategies the authors suggest are self-reflection, awareness, mentoring and leadership training.

Hentschel and Horvath’s full article can be read here.

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