Researchers have shown that prejudice encourages explanations for inequality that attribute stigmatized groups’ negative outcomes to internal-controllable causes. We extended this research by investigating how ambivalent sexism affects attributions for gender income inequality. Hostile sexism should facilitate acceptance of gender income inequality through attributions that emphasize individual choice. We tested this hypothesis in two web-based samples of predominately White American men and women, ranging in age from 18 to 82 years (M age = 33.8). In Study 1 (N = 650), hostile sexism, but not benevolent sexism, positively predicted acceptance of gender income inequality. Attributions of choice and societal unfairness mediated this effect. In Study 2 (N = 242), following exposure to hostile sexism, participants increased acceptance of gender income inequality; choice explanations mediated this relation, although these effects occurred for political conservatives only. Consistent with prior work on attributions, hostile sexism was linked to victim-blaming attributions for gender income inequality. Overall, hostile sexism creates an attitudinal barrier—especially for conservatives—to supporting equal pay for women. To overcome this barrier, organizations could implement strategies aimed at ensuring more objective performance evaluations and pay decisions. Further, policy makers and communicators should be careful in choosing how they frame the gender pay gap. Additional online materials for this article are available on PWQ’s website at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/0361684318815468.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Gender Studies
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- pay equity
- system justification