Gender at Work


One of the questions our lab focuses on is how women and men negotiate gender-based expectations at work and at home. For example, how does the stereotypically masculine image of successful scientists affect the work engagement, ambition and pay of women in academia? Focusing on the work-family interface, we examine how traditional gender roles depicting women as caregivers and men as providers affect the choices men and women make regarding their work-family balance and the guilt they experience when they prioritize their work over their family. Moreover, we study how implicit gender stereotypes develop over time. In a recent study we show how implicit gender stereotypes within heterosexual couples become increasingly traditional during the first years in which they become parents. Finally, we investigate how traditional gender roles play out in romantic relationships between men and women, and find that in relationships where women surpass their male partner in terms of societal success, both partners suffer social penalties and relationship quality is reduced.


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The Queen Bee Phenomenon


It is often assumed that women who break the glass ceiling will help other women to achieve the same. However, our research on the Queen Bee phenomenon shows that the circumstances under which women work may motivate them to assimilate into a masculine culture, distance themselves from junior women and legitimize rather than oppose gender inequality in their organization. In our research we try to explain why women opt for queen bee tactics, and what can be done to prevent this. For example, we find that queen bee behavior is a survival tactic by which women try to achieve career success in sexist organizational environments. Moreover, the high amount of sacrifices successful women had to make for their career, combined with the low support they receive in masculine organizations, leads them to perceive themselves as very different from other women and less willing to help them. 

Questions that we are currently pursuing are whether it pays to be a queen bee (how are queen bees evaluated? Are they more likely to receive promotions than other women?) and how the Queen Bee phenomenon develops (are masculine women selected for powerful jobs in masculine organizations, or do women turn into queen bees as they spend more time in such organizations?).


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For the original Dutch measures and manipulations click here

For the English translation of the measures and manipulations click here

Ethnic identities and intergroup relations


Apart from our work on gender identity, we also study processes related to social identity in ethnic minority groups. We examine self-group distancing responses very similar to the Queen Bee phenomenon among ethnic minority employees in the Netherlands. And among Muslim students we examine how ‘Islamafobism’ can impact on their motivation and academic performance, and how affirmations of their personal or social identity can help them to achieve their aspirations in a context in which they not always feel accepted.

But we also think about how to improve relations between ethnic groups, such as the relations between ethnic groups in the Western Balkans following the violent conflict at the end of the 20th century. In a project we perform in Kosovo, we examine how the majority ethnic group of Albanians and the minority group of Serbs perceive each other, and whether stimulating complex and overarching social identities may help to alleviate tensions between the groups.


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Social Neuroscience of Social Identity


In our lab we try to use diverse methods to optimally examine the processes under investigation. In order to examine psychological processes that people are unable or unwilling to report on, we use neuroscientific measures such as EEG and cardiovascular measures. For example, in order to examine the degree to which people automatically distinguish between members of their own group and an outgroup, we measure event-related brain potentials that pick up on early attentional processes. This method has allowed us to show that being the target of discrimination leads Muslim individuals to more strongly distinguish between Muslim and non-Muslim faces within the first 200 ms of perception. We are currently studying whether conditions that trigger the Queen Bee phenomenon (e.g., underrepresentation, salience of negative gender stereotypes) do so because they automatically trigger women to pay more automatic attention to the men rather than the women around them.

In order to measure the threats and challenges to social identity that people may experience, we use cardiovascular measures that allow us to distinguish between positive and negative stress-responses. For example, do women who show Queen Bee responses do so because their work setting elicits physiological threat responses? And can interventions that aim to affirm social identity help to reduce these physiological threat responses?


For publications regarding this topic click here