Powerless Men and Agentic Women: Gender Bias in Hiring Decisions




Hoover, Anne E.
Hack, Tay
Garcia, Amber L.
Goodfriend, Wind
Habashi, Meara M.

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Springer Science+Business Media, LLC


We examined male power-roles as a potential moderator of gender bias in hiring decisions. Drawing from previous work on perceptions of agentic women and precarious manhood theory, we predicted that men in low-power roles may react more negatively to agentic women compared to men in high-power roles. In two experiments, male participants evaluated résumés from male and female job candidates applying for a managerial position. Across experiments, results suggest that lacking power may facilitate biased hiring decisions. U.S. college men assigned to (Experiment 1, n = 83) or primed (Experiment 2, n = 84) with a low-power role rated the female applicant as less hireable and recommended a lower salary for her compared to the male applicant. This difference did not occur in the high-power or baseline conditions. A metaanalysis combining the results of both experiments confirmed that gender bias was limited to the low-power condition. Results are discussed in terms of powerlessness as a masculinity threat that may have downstream consequences for women.



gender roles, masculinity, hiring decisions, precarious manhood, backlash effect, leadership, interpersonal control


Hoover, A. E., Hack, T., Garcia, A. L., Goodfriend, W., & Habashi, M. M. (2019). Powerless men and agentic women: gender bias in hiring decisions. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, (11–12), 667. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-018-0964-y