Opting out or denying discrimination? How the framework of free choice in American society influences perceptions of gender inequality, Psychological Science
American women still confront workplace obstacles (e.g., bias against mothers, inflexible workplaces) that hinder their advancement at the upper levels of organizations. Despite these obstacles, most Americans fail to recognize that such gender obstacles still exist. Focusing on mothers who leave the workforce, we propose that the prevalent American assumption that actions are a product of choice conceals workplace obstacles by communicating that opportunities are equal and that behavior is free from contextual influence. Study 1 reveals that stay-at-home mothers who view their own workplace departure as a choice experience greater well-being, but less often recognize workplace obstacles such as discrimination as a source of inequality. Study 2 shows that mere exposure to actions framed as choices increases observers' belief that society provides equal opportunities and that gender discrimination no longer exists. By concealing the obstacles that women still face, this choice framework may hinder women's long-term advancement in society.
Stephens, Nicole. 2011. Opting out or denying discrimination? How the framework of free choice in American society influences perceptions of gender inequality. Psychological Science. 22(10): 1231-1236.