A Field Experiment: Reducing Interpersonal Discrimination Toward Pregnant Job Applicants

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Abstract

The current research targets 4 potential stereotypes driving hostile attitudes and discriminatory behaviors toward pregnant women: incompetence, lack of commitment, inflexibility, and need for accommodation. We tested the relative efficacy of reducing concerns related to each of the stereotypes in a field experiment in which female confederates who sometimes wore pregnancy prostheses applied for jobs in a retail setting. As expected, ratings from 3 perspectives (applicants, observers, and independent coders) converged to show that pregnant applicants received more interpersonal hostility than did nonpregnant applicants. However, when hiring managers received (vs. did not receive) counterstereotypic information about certain pregnancy-related stereotypes (particularly lack of commitment and inflexibility), managers displayed significantly less interpersonal discrimination. Explicit comparisons of counterstereotypic information shed light on the fact that certain information may be more effective in reducing discrimination than others. We conclude by discussing how the current research makes novel theoretical contributions and describe some practical organizational implications for understanding and improving the experiences of pregnant workers.

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