A Hidden Barrier to Diversification? Performance Recognition Penalties for Incumbent Workers in Male-Dominated Occupations. By: Meuris, Jirs and Merluzzi, Jennifer. 2024. American Sociological Review. Vol. 89 Issue 2, p256-297.

Responding to persistent gender inequity, organizations have adopted diversity initiatives to promote women’s representation in traditionally male-dominated occupations. Although studies have identified challenges to these initiatives for women entering occupations, we uncover a performance recognition penalty for incumbent workers originating from the process of occupational diversification. As women incrementally enter a male-dominated occupation, a conflict arises between the changing gender composition at the work-unit level and the masculine “ideal worker” prototype embedded in the occupation. We propose that this conflict will lower the performance expectations of the work unit, decreasing the individual likelihood of performance recognition for each worker in the unit. Using detailed panel data on police officers, we found that an officer’s individual likelihood of being nominated for a performance award consistently declined when their police unit proportionately increased in women officers. Both men and women managers enacted this penalty, with men managers penalizing men subordinates more than women subordinates. This pattern remained for awards recognizing exceptional performance, regardless of gender-typing of the unit or its work tasks, and considering officer tenure and attrition from the unit. Our findings offer novel insights into the challenge of diversifying male-dominated occupations.