The findings, reported in the European Journal of Social Psychology, suggests that ‘feminised’ and gender specific job titles leave women being seen as less capable, while women who have these roles are likely to be assessed as less impressive professionally than men or women with male job titles.
Lead author, Magdalena Formanowicz, of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw, said:
“Feminising language helps make women more visible and more salient, but apparently this is not always an advantage.
“Emphasising femaleness with a feminine title may lower the evaluation of women in a professional context.”
The researchers also indicated that men using a feminine job title would be “devalued”, but women using the masculine labels may profit because they sustain the cultural status quo.
Formanowicz conducted the research with colleagues at the University of Kiel in Germany and the University of Bern in Switzerland, and in one study 96 men and women were asked to evaluate applicants for a “prestigious expert position” and were handed a newspaper commentary that the candidate had written to help them.
When asked how likely they were to give the applicant the job, male applicants and women with masculine job titles were rated equally highly, however women with feminine job titles were rated considerably lower.
Commenting on the findings, Neil Ashton, Chairman of The Ashton Partnership, a Knightsbridge-based Executive Headhunting firm, said:
“If a woman wants to have a job title that reflects her femininity she should but there is also space for women to have more masculine job titles if it empowers them.”
He added that the world of employment had become ‘obsessed’ with job titles which are ‘frankly irrelevant’.