Do stressed female role models hinder women’s interest in male-dominated domains?
The current study is designed to test whether a stressed-out female role model in a male-dominated domain hinders women’s career aspirations. Role models have been shown to increase women’s career interest in fields where they are underrepresented. This study, however, sought to establish that role model stress in male-dominated domains is threatening to aspirant women’s career achievement. Female pre-medical undergraduates read about either a stressed or non-stressed female physician (the role model) who works in either a male-dominated or gender-equal work environment. There were no significant changes on pre-med career interest over time. However, participants reported that their interest in a career in medicine decreased as a result of listening to an interview with a stressed role model. Unexpectedly, participants listening to a stressed role model performed better on an in-lab task. The male-dominated domain did not induce the same threat effects as it has in past studies, but this independent variable was not without consequence as participants in the gender-equal domain condition performed better on a creative thinking exercise. This study demonstrates that stressed-out role models do impact individuals looking up to them, but it may not be enough to deter new aspirants from their intended career paths.