The effect of work-attire on perceptions of competency of women in the workplace. (2021)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Science
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
Purpose - The purpose of this experiment was to examine whether manipulations to the provocativeness or conservativeness of female work-attire could impact perceptions of competency.
Design/methodology/approach – The experiment used a repeated measures design where New Zealand full-time employed participants responded to three conditions. The experiment measured six competencies using ratings on work competency scales to capture participants’ competency perceptions of a model wearing conservative and provocative work-attire, and a control condition. Three traditionally masculine: assertiveness, leadership, achievement striving, and three traditionally feminine: agreeableness, dependability, and sociability competencies were measured. Hypotheses were empirically tested though repeated measures analysis of variance and post hoc contrasts via the Tukey’s test.
Findings – The findings show a statistically significant main effect of attire, as well as a statistically significant interaction between attire condition and competency ratings. Participants were found to perceive the model as higher in assertiveness, achievement striving and leadership masculine competencies when dressed in conservative work-attire, as compared to agreeableness and sociability feminine competencies. Moreover results showed the masculine conservative condition was significantly different from the control condition with participants rating the conservative condition significantly higher in assertiveness, achievement orientation, leadership, sociability, and dependability when compared to the control condition. The provocative feminine condition mean ratings were found to be significantly different from the control condition. However, post hoc analysis reviled that none of the six competencies tested reached significance when compared to the competency mean ratings for the control condition.
Practical implications – By manipulating work-attire, women may be able to increase perceptions of advantageous competencies that are not commonly attributed to women. Thereby reducing the person-role-fit disparity, often attributed to women in traditional masculine roles.
Social implications – Competencies that are stereotypically associated with women in the workplace are often associated with less than favorable outcomes in leadership positions. By examining the factors that contribute to gender stereotyping, we can provide more insight into the disparity between the number of women in the New Zealand workforce and the number of women in senior leadership roles.
Originality/value – Previous research has focused on perceptions of extreme attire- provocativeness which provides little insight to the traditional work setting. Therefore, examining the effect of more realistic manipulations to work-attire provides more practical value. Previous research has also relied on vague Likert type scales to measure competencies. This study is the first to utilize robust work competency scales. Moreover, this study examined the effect work-attire had on perceptions of traditional masculine and feminine competencies. To the authors knowledge this is the first time this interaction has been examined.