Unpacking Benevolent Sexism through an Investigation of the Effects of Helping Behaviors on Women
Extant empirical research is mixed on the link between the endorsement of benevolent sexism—a set of stereotypical attitudes regarding women that are both positive and patronizing in tone—and behaviors that reflect benevolent sexism. The confusion stemming from these mixed results is especially prominent in research that considers helping behaviors, which occur when an individual helps their coworker solve a work-related problem. I aim to add clarity to research on the intersection of benevolent sexism and helping behaviors in three experiments. In Study 1, I found that women who endorse benevolent sexism negatively evaluated their own competence and the competence of their helper after receiving dependency-oriented help. In Study 2, I replicated the results of Study 1 but found that power distance, specific self-confidence, and stigma consciousness were unrelated to benevolent sexism, and did not explain the effects of benevolent sexism on helping behaviors better than benevolent sexism itself. In Study 3, I found that observers negatively evaluated the competence of women who received dependency-oriented and, unlike previous research, these results were not affected by the observers’ endorsement of benevolent sexism. In conducting these studies, I add to the existing research on benevolent sexism by expanding on and developing theory about the effects of benevolent sexism in the workplace while accounting for anomalous findings in previous research. Additionally, I add to the literature on help in the workplace by showing that certain kinds of helping behaviors may negatively impact both an individual’s performance on the task for which they are receiving help and evaluations of helpers.