Now You See Her, Now You Don’t: Hidden Responses of Women to the Experience of Work Discrimination

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Women who work in non-traditional occupations continue to face sexism and discrimination. Research has revealed that personal relative deprivation, that is, discontent following the perception of sex discrimination, can lead to hidden responses, namely, psychological disengagement (Tougas, Rinfret, Beaton and de la Sablonnière, 2005). Psychological disengagement refers to the disassociation of one’s self-worth from the experience of discrimination. The first pathway to psychological disengagement is discounting the validity of the feedback received, followed by devaluation of the sphere of work. While discounting impairs self-esteem, devaluation hinders participation in work activities (Tougas et al., 2005). In a survey study conducted among 200 women in engineering, sciences, technology and trades, we investigated the relationship between personal relative deprivation, psychological disengagement and two further hidden consequences to discrimination, that is, self-concept stability and personal glass ceiling. Results of our analyses support our predictions. As expected, the experience of discrimination and ensuing psychological disengagement render women invisible to others at work but contribute toward a stable self-esteem. Implications of these findings will be discussed in light of the concept of professional resilience.


Keywords: Psychological Disengagement, Women and Work
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Ann Beaton

Canada Research Chair on inter-group relations, School of Psychology, Université de Moncton
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Ann Beaton is a professor and Canada Research Chair on inter-group relations at the Université de Moncton, Canada. Her research focuses on how members of low and high status groups relate to one another in an academic and work setting. Her studies conducted among members of low status groups has looked at how they respond to social exclusion. Among members of high status groups, her research has examined how they view members of stigmatized groups and react to the effects of social inclusion practices. Dr. Beaton holds a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Ottawa and has been a post-doctoral scholar at the Center for the Study of Group Processes at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK.

Dr. Francine Tougas

Professor, School of Psychology, University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


Dr. Natalie Rinfret

Titulaire de la Chaire La Capitale en leadership dans le secteur public, Évaluation des compétences, École nationale d'administration publique
Quebec, Canada


Julie Noel

Graduate candidate, School of Psychology, Université de Moncton
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada


Ref: I08P0045