Associate 2022-23

M. Teresa Cardador

Labor & Employment Relations

Unpacking Status-Leveling Dynamics and Their Implications for Women in Male-Dominated Occupations

Cardador imageResearchers, organizations, and policy-makers are focused on how to attract, support the progression of, and retain women in traditionally male-dominated occupations such as engineering, research, and medicine. A sizable body of research documents the myriad barriers to promotion, success, well-being, and retention faced by women in these professions. Collectively, this research has examined the culture of male-dominated occupations, focusing on the actions of male colleagues and supervisors towards women that result in discrimination, stereotyping, harassment, and devaluation of their work. Professor Cardador’s recent research has identified an entirely new set of challenges that women in male-dominated professions experience when they collaborate across occupational boundaries with women in female-dominated occupations who are lower in the organizational status hierarchy. In particular, women in subordinate occupational roles expect higher-status women to diminish their status to be more equal in what can be described as a "status-leveling burden." Status-leveling demands mean that women in male-dominated occupations must not only face the challenges of being a minority in a high-status occupation, but also negotiating demands that they not fully use the status that they've earned by succeeding in a male-dominated job.

Professor Cardador’s initial research into the status-leveling phenomenon shows that it adds additional stressors and burdens to women's careers, thus potentially undermining their retention and productivity. During her CAS appointment, she plans to expand her status-leveling research to understand the many unanswered questions that remain, such as (1) what mechanisms underlie the status tensions between women collaborating across occupations, (2) under what conditions is the status-leveling burden most likely to exist, and (3) what are the career, performance, and well-being implications of the status-leveling burden and its management?