My research focuses on gender stereotypes in leadership domains and on ways that these stereotypes intersect with ideologies of motherhood and the family. In particular, I am interested in 1) how stereotypes affect judgments of men, women, and parents in gender-incongruent roles and 2) how and why stereotypes operate differently among liberals and conservatives. My research suggests that an emphasis on motherhood exacerbates gender prejudice in leadership domains, but may benefit women indirectly in some contexts. In my work, I employ content analysis to examine shared cultural representations of gender and the family and classic social-psychological experiments to test their individual-level effects.
Dissertation Research: Maternal Appeals in Politics
In their 2008 presidential campaigns, Sarah Palin and Barack Obama both portrayed themselves as committed and involved parents, an increasing trend in U.S. politics. Political actors' choice to emphasize motherhood is at odds with social-psychological theories that indicate that women will be seen as poor candidates for leadership positions to the extent that they appear stereotypically feminine. My dissertation research provided an empirical test of the claim that motherhood can be harnessed to advance a political agenda. Results indicated that candidates attempt to channel the power of motherhood for political gain, and in the contemporary political environment, male candidates have more leeway to make maternal appeals than do female candidates. Maternal appeals also changed the process of evaluation such that feminine characteristics were weighted more heavily in vote choice. Moreover, maternal appeals had effects beyond voters' impressions of candidates: They increased support for liberal policies among some individuals, but also perpetuated stereotypes of mothers in an organizational context. Taken together, the findings of these studies support the claim that appeals to motherhood have a unique power, but in the current socio-cultural context in which motherhood is devalued and separate from the public sphere, the effects of their power are limited.
See my CV for a list of my research publications and presentations.