A few good women: Gender differences in evaluations of promotability in industrial research and development

Corinne Post, Nancy DiTomaso, Sarah R. Lowe, George F. Farris, Rene Cordero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose - This paper aims to evaluate alternative theories about how perceived innovativeness and perceived relational skills interact with gender to explain evaluations by managers of scientists and engineers' promotability into management. Design/methodology/approach - A cross-sectional design is used. The sample (n = 2,278) is drawn from 24 large US corporations. Separate surveys are administered in each corporation to scientists and engineers and to managers evaluating them. Findings - Managers rate men and women equally promotable. Furthermore, women whom managers perceived to be especially innovative receive higher evaluations of promotability than similarly accomplished men. And, among those perceived to have low relational skills, women and men are evaluated similarly. Research limitations/implications - More research is needed to evaluate how ambivalent stereotypes and pressures from organizations to suppress categorical thinking might combine to affect evaluation and selection processes in diverse work settings. Practical implications - Companies should be concerned about the potential tendency for managers to reward a few individuals when they exceed stereotypical expectations. Employees should be aware of and actively manage the impressions that managers have of them with regard to innovativeness and relational skills. Originality/value - This paper calls attention to the role of ambivalence and legitimacy theories that predict that women will receive higher evaluations when they exceed stereotypical expectations of innovativeness and thatwhenwomen do notmeet stereotypical expectations of relational skills, managers will temper their harshness in evaluating them. In developing this analysis, it seeks to contribute to the understanding of evaluation processes by considering the context in which evaluations take place.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-371
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Managerial Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 May 2009


  • Gender
  • Performance appraisal
  • Promotion
  • Research and development
  • Social roles
  • United States of America


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