Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

The Influence of an Equity Statement on Perceivers' Implicit and Explicit Associations between Males and Science

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

The Influence of an Equity Statement on Perceivers' Implicit and Explicit Associations between Males and Science

Article excerpt

The present study investigated how an Equal Educational Opportunity (EEdO) statement influenced students' attitudes towards the association of males and females with science. After reading an advertisement for a student scholarship in physical science, including the equity statement or not, 109 participants completed both an implicit and an explicit measure of the relative association of males and females with physical sciences. As expected, physical science was more strongly associated with males than with females, on both the implicit and explicit measures. There was no impact of the presence or absence of the equity statement on explicit attitudes. However, there was an impact of the equity-statement for the implicit attitudes, though only for the female participants. Females showed a weaker relative association of sciences with males when an equity-statement was present. Male participants, in contrast, were not influenced by the presence or the absence of the statement. The results are discussed in terms the influence of equity statements on people's attitudes.

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A large number of organizations now include equity and diversity promoting statements (1) in their recruitment advertisements, policies, mission statements and other company information. The inclusion of such statements is designed to enhance the attractiveness of the organization, to promote the organization as a good employer, and to attract diverse, high quality applicants (Smith, Wokutch, Harrington, & Dennis, 2004; Lift, 1999).

Past research has indeed shown that the inclusion of such statements can enhance the evaluation of the specific organization (McNab & Johnston, 2002; Williams & Bauer, 1994). The impact of such statements is, however, qualified by the nature of the perceiver. The positive impact of equity statements may depend on the perceiver's group membership and the personal relevance of such statement (Veilleux & Tougas, 1989). That is, including an equity promoting statement in advertisements may have a positive impact on those individuals, such as members of minority or under-represented groups, who would likely benefit from the equity policy so advertised. At the same time such statements can have a negative impact for the majority applicants with liking of the organization decreasing (Graves & Powell, 1994; Tougas & Beaton, 1993). It is likely that such negative impact of the Equal Employment Opportunity (LEO) statements is the result of perceived threat by the majority applicants who may see such a programme favouring minority applicants over themselves (Barber & Roehlin, 1993).

Thomas and Wise (1999) have also suggested that minority group members place more importance on factors such as diversity than do majority group members, and hence equity statements and the like are more salient to minority than majority groups. For example, Matheson and colleagues (1994) found that only in a situation where discrimination against women was made salient did the female participants equally endorse all forms of affirmative action. When discrimination was not salient, the female participants did not endorse preferential treatment. In a similar manner, Perkins and colleagues (2000) found that only minority participants were influenced by the portrayal of a diverse workforce (advertisement pictured both white and black employees), where as the majority participants were not influenced by such portrayals. Although not univocal (e.g. Paddison, 1990), the majority of past research indicates that equity statements do influence people's opinions on organizations, but the influence is dependent upon the individual's group membership.

The present study extends this research by considering a more generalized impact of the inclusion of equity statements. Rather than considering whether the inclusion of an equity promoting statement increases or decreases the attractiveness of a given organization, we investigated the impact of an equity statement on attitudes more generally. …

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