Feb 18

Diversity and discrimination

When I think about diversity, I feel warm because to me diversity is a mixture of things or people that come together to add variety to a situation. And as the saying goes, ‘variety is the spice of life.’ Variety in my mind changes the atmosphere and adds flavor to many things. However, that’s how I think and although it aches me, I have become conscious to the fact that many people don’t share the same feelings about diversity, variety, inclusion, cooperation etc. Many people are drawn to the opposite, and support discrimination, segregation, separation and its likeness. Diversity doesn’t end discrimination, and it often negatively impacts minority groups.

I remember being a freshman in college and experiencing what I believe was discrimination. The school that I attended, I would considered somewhat diverse. It was a mixture of probably 60% Caucasian and 40% minorities. The staffing was about the same. As a freshman, I tried to stay on top of my game and worked very hard. However, in one class I was getting a B on all my assignments, so I inquired about it with the instructor. Just to find out what I could do differently to make sure I got an A. I asked, “what’s stopping me from getting an A in my assignments and she responded, “ummm it’s just the way you write.”

“Just the way I write? What do you mean?” I asked. And she said again it’s just the way you write. That’s the only response I was given. So, I went to my English professor (whose class I was averaging A in) and I asked her about my writing. Like I expected, she said she didn’t see anything wrong with it and couldn’t offer any suggestion for changing it. I decided that that wasn’t the school for me. Because if I attend a school I don’t want to be graded lightly or harshly because of my race. I want to be graded on the quality of work I produce. And I knew that sometimes being the only minority, in some classes may lead to alternative reasons for my  grades.

I’ve heard and witnessed many similar stories involving different groups. The one thing that stays true in each situation is the humiliation and disgust that people experience when they are treated that way. Although society has come a far way in bridging the gap of segregation, there is still a lot of work to me done. Sometimes it seems impossible, but we can’t stop trying.



Feb 18

Project Implicit: A Nation’s Skeletons Revealed

In 1998, three scientists created what is now known as Project Implicit. The project had its humble beginnings rooted in a seemingly innocuous association test that had vast implications for society in its entirety. We have have biases. We are biased about our clothes, our hair products, the car we drive but the biases that we are afraid to admit to are addressed by this test. In a quick paced visual association test, a respondent is given several sets of items with instructions to associate specific items with specific responses (Not many, if any, would want to freely admit they have biases for or against varying demographics and the point of implicit biases is that you are not aware of them). The response time is then calculated and thus your implicit biases can be measured. On the surface, it seems simple however, the test itself is incredibly intuitive and the first of its kind.

Since its creation, the data has been pooled and the book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People was published in 2013. The book submerges the reader into the methodology of the researches and what sets their work apart from any other reporting and testing methods. The biggest factor is that the test itself is relatively free from self-monitoring possibilities. Participants are largely unaware of how the test is measuring their biases and the real validity behind the measures. This provides a highly accurate compilation of results.

The test measures biases on a range of topics: race, disability, sex, weight, sexuality, weapons, age and even presidents. What they have found throughout their research is that far more people than any of us would like to believe have implicit biases that could be affecting their day to day decisions and could subsequently affect others. There are many American citizens that would love to believe that racism died with the civil rights movement, the advent of desegregation and affirmative action but unfortunately that just is not the case. We may see it with our own eyes as we scroll through the various feeds of social media or view the comments section on YouTube or even CSPAN videos. However, we might tell ourselves that these are just troll accounts or even perhaps just Russian bots attempting to divide and conquer. The disappointing reality is that there is still deep seated racism in the minds of many. This project set out to document that.

The way in which the researchers assess the overwhelming amount of residual bias in our world today, is an incredibly objective one. They reference the “automatic and reflective” reactions of the mind. One is conscious (reflective) and the other unconscious (automatic). Our implicit biases reside in that unconscious part of our mind that is shaped by our experiences and the memories formed from them. Those associations that develop are exactly what the test brings to light in a record-able black and white form of data to be measured. Although the validity and reliability of this test is high, many people are faced with high amounts of cognitive dissonance when staring down their results. How we deal with this dissonance can determine whether these implicit biases are addressed or not.

Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2016). Blindspot: hidden biases of good people. New York: Bantam Books.
ProjectImplicit. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
(n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2018, from http://www.projectimplicit.net/

Feb 18

Healthcare: Women in Leadership Roles & Inter-group Dynamics

Under many organizational hierarchies, it is commonplace for an older male to be in the role of highest authority. All United States Presidents have been male. There are 429 males in the 2018 United States Congress, which includes 535 Senators and Representatives. According to the World Health Organization workforce statistics, women account for more than 75% of the healthcare workforce in the United States (2008). This statistic aligns with the common assumption that women are caring, affectionate and compassionate which are necessary traits to work in healthcare.  The same World Health Organization statistics showed that women also accounted for a majority of the associate professional positions in healthcare, but very few of the professional and physician roles (2008). As with any statistical data, there are always outliers.  I happen to be employed at a non-profit healthcare organization that happens to be an outlier to this data.  

The organization I work for is a nationwide, well-kept secret that is in the business of caring for others. This particular organization goes into communities with a need and does it’s best to meet it whether it is providing housing for the homeless, assisting newly released prisoners with acclimation to their new life and job search, and senior living. My location focuses on Senior Living Housing – Independent Living, Assisted Living, Rehabilitation/Physical Therapy, Long Term Care and Memory Support. Our building is relatively small compared to others in the organization, employs just over 260 employees and we continuously compete with several other large healthcare facilities in the area. Of our four executives, three are females and one is male. We have thirteen department managers, twelve of which are females and one is male. Also included in our leadership structure are five supervisors, three are females and two are males. To put these numbers in perspective, we have two nursing departments whose managers are registered nurses (2) and supervisors are also registered nurses (2). The rest of the leaders in our building may come from similar facilities, but are not medically trained.

Although our campus defies gender norms when it comes to leadership, our culture is very much in line with that of the rest of the United States.  In terms of individualism versus collectivism, our culture leans heavily towards individualism. Even though our mission dictates a common goal of all departments, that they are extremely motivated to follow, the process on how to achieve that goal creates conflict. Each employee that walks through our door every day truly believes that they are there to provide excellent service to the residents that live in our buildings. However, there is much conflict between departments. As a member of Human Resources, I am constantly having to mediate discussions between departments. Schneider, Gruman and Coutts (2012) discuss the Social Identity Theory and share that on assumption of the theory is that people want to feel good about themselves, and about the group that they belong to. Potential for conflict exists when individuals or groups notice differences between their group and another and an “us versus them” sets in. This mentality prevents the groups from being able to work together towards their common goal.

Coalition building would be a great step towards reducing conflict between the departments. We have an employee led committee that plans campus-wide events for all employees. These events promote acquaintance potential allowing people from different groups to socialize and get to know each other on a personal level while doing something entertaining. It would also be in our best interest to try to develop cooperative activities for the groups to do to meet the same goal together.



Center for American Women and Politics (2018). Women in the U.S. Congress 2018. Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University. Retrieved from: http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/women-us-congress-2018

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2018). PSYCH 424 Lesson 6: Intergroup Relations/Diversity. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1924488/modules/items/23682591

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

World Health Organization. (2008). Gender and Health Workforce Statistics. Spotlight on Statistics. A fact file on health workforce statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/hrh/statistics/spotlight_2.pdf

Feb 18

Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

It was 1966 in Oakland, California, a time of racial discrimination and turmoil amongst African Americans and the police forces (Duncan, 2017). In order to combat these social injustices, two men named Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded a revolutionary group known as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (later changed simply to the Black Panther Party) (Duncan, 2017). Originally, the Black Panthers were to safeguard African American neighborhoods from the police, but they eventually became even more precautious; they promoted arming every African American and the exemption of African Americans from the draft (Duncan, 2017). There was much social tension between in-groups during this period of the 1960s. What else was there to do but to ban together and protect one another from the wanton violence that continually seemed to plague African Americans and their families?

The Black Panther Party was not vehement toward all white people, but aligned themselves with nonracist whites, as each had a common purpose to bring about social justice and eradicate the racial discrimination and chaos that had been ravaging that part of the country (Duncan, 2017). This leads me to believe that the nonracist white people valued their social identity (a committed membership to a group that is significant to one’s self-concept) within the Black Panther Party more than their own personal identities (e.g., race, appearance, desire for personal achievement). However, the Black Panther Party and all of its members seemed to exhibit the characteristics explicated by the Social Dominance Theory.

The Social Dominance Theory explains that every individual belongs to a group, and that each individual offers resources of some kind for members of that particular group. These members are always inclined to protect the group over their individual selves. The aim of the Black Panther Party seemed to be to gain equal footing with the whites in power at the time. Each group desired the resources and the power associated with being at the top of the social hierarchy. Positive social value (e.g., high status) causes members of the high status groups to aim to maintain the social hierarchy just as it is (Pratto, Sidanious, & Levin, 2006; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999), lest they relinquish their resources and power to another subordinate group (in this case, the Black Panther Party). This led to the FBI’s director, J. Edgar Hoover to declare the group the “greatest threat to national security” in 1969 (Duncan, 2017).

Even though the Black Panther Party provided social services like “education, tuberculosis testing, legal aid, transportation assistance, ambulance service, and the manufacture and distribution of free shoes to poor people,” the FBI labeled the Black Panthers a communist organization and therefore an adversary of the United States government (Duncan, 2017). After this, many underhanded tactics (e.g., sabotage, misinformation, lethal force) by COINTELPRO essentially wiped out the Black Panther Party. The FBI and the United States government was the more powerful and resourceful in-group at the time (and still remains so). There is much to learn from this fearful reaction from our US government, and much to learn about how in-groups view out-groups as bona fide threats.


Feb 18

Naked and Afraid .. more like Naked and Sexist

What is one of the first questions you ask someone when they are having a baby? What is the sex, is it a boy or girl?  Would you feel foolish to show up to a friend or family member’s baby shower with frilly pink dresses only to find out they are having a boy? Why does society equate blue for boys and pink for girls? These types of beliefs and rules are gender norms set by society that are associated with a specific sex. At birth we are taught things like boys are supposed to be tough and not cry, while girls are told they should be softer and nurturers. These “roles” assigned to men and women start at the day we are born and continue throughout life. How we are raised, our beliefs, preconceived notions are our prejudices. Sometimes prejudice can alter our attitudes enough that it ultimately directs our behaviors, turning into discrimination.  This is what Justin Bullard was faced with evaluating while trying to survive while completely naked in the Bahamas, while on television for the world to see.


The Discovery Channels show Naked and Afraid takes two self-proclaimed survivalist, one male and one female, to test their primitive skills for twenty-one days in some of the most extreme environments while completely naked.  Not something I would ever want to do but apparently there are a lot of people who are out there applying for this bragging right. Blood in the Water aired July of 2014 and had a Floridian southern firefighter Justin Bullard and Californian survivalist Dani Julien. The two were complete opposites from the beginning and ended up taking a turn for the worse when Dani lost their fire-starter. Frustrated Justin’s true feelings come to the surface for the world to see for the reminder of their trip. Comments are from Justin about how he the male should be out providing the food and she as the female should be watching the fire they had made. He mentions how his papa never made a plate of his own food till the day he died, that is granny cooked his food and washed his dishes. Justin says he is from the south and they believe men are the head of the household; women should be at home taking care of dinner and clothes. When he sees his survival, partner using a knife to cut a tree limb for firewood he tells her she looks like a man. Even though she is completely naked and showing blatantly her femininity. Throughout the episode Justin struggles with his resentment for Dani’s independence and strength. His feelings turn into discrimination and overt sexism that causes the two to not speak or work together much at all.

One would hope when considering contact hypothesis that through positive exposure, and working towards a common goal Justin’s negative stereotypes of women and their roles might have improved. Justin and Dani were in a situation that required them to depend on each other working towards making it to the end of their twenty-one-day challenge. Justin was exposed to a woman, Dani, tackling challenges he deemed for men only. She was hunting, navigating, and preparing shelter which challenge his perceptions of women drastically. It forced Justin to sit with the idea that both of them were equal. In order to survive Just would need grow to understand women are capable of the just as much as men and learn to work together. Without giving any spoilers to if they made it through the twenty-one days, I will simply conclude that in my opinion Justin needs a little extra contact with strong women to fully alter his current perceptions of women. Regardless, it was a good example of how perceptions become discrimination and even in the most extreme circumstances still prevailed causing discomfort that could have been prevented.


About The Show – Naked and Afraid | Discovery. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2018, from https://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/naked-and-afraid/about

Pennsylvania State University, World Campus (2018). PSYCH 424: Lesson 6: Intergroup Relations/Diversity. Retrieved from CANVAS: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1924488/modules

Naked And Afraid Recap: Season 3, Episode 2 “Blood in the Water”. (2015, November 24). Retrieved February 16, 2018, from https://www.channelguidemag.com/tv-news/2014/07/06/naked-and-afraid-recap-season-3-episode-2-blood-water/

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems(2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Feb 18

Bullying: Protecting one’s in-group

We as humans instinctually look at one another in a defensive mode- is this person like me or not? This can be seen throughout our lives, however, it seems to be prominent in many of our schools in the form of bullying. In applied social psychology, there are many thoughts and ideas pertaining to discrimination and intergroup relations; especially the social identity theory and the social dominance theory. Humans are social creatures, and we do many things in order to belong. We must feel like we are an individual member of a larger group, and we must protect that group in order to keep our “place.” Could bullying be seen as a way to keep one’s place in their respective groups?

The social identity theory aims to explain why and when we use different aspects of our identity to behave in situations. Our social identity focuses on a person’s membership and committal to a group. (Nelson, 2018) A child or adolescent is just beginning to really feel the importance of belonging to a group of peers, and this seems to be when bullying occurs the most. Groups provide an identity to a person by having common norms and expectations. However, these group norms/expectations tend to enhance bullying when a group is presented an “outsider” with conflicting norms. (Duffy, Nesdale, 2009) Perhaps bullying is a result of a person feeling their identity is rooted within a group, and feels that when their identity is threatened, they must act against the threatening outsider. It may be a sign of “I believe what you believe” to the other members of the group when a child bullies an outsider to that group.

The social dominance theory highlights that a person feels that they must protect their in-group, in order to keep the group’s resources available to the individual. While the social identity theory believes that an individual is only motivated to protect the group sometimes, the social dominance theory believes that a person is motivated to protect all of the time. (Nelson, 2018) These groups may provide a sense of belonging to an individual, and opportunities of power. These positions of power and status may cause children and adolescents to treat others poorly, however. From research, ranking members of more dominant groups tend to treat group outsiders negatively in order to keep their power within a group. (Olthof, Goossens, Vermande, Aleva, van der Meulen, 2011) According to the social dominance theory, a person will always protect their group because the group and power it provides is most valuable. Could bullies simply be trying to preserve their in-group status by derogating others?

While there is no denying that bullying is an atrocious act and is becoming a bit of an epidemic, there may be more to it than angsty teenagers or rowdy children. Could bullying be rooted in our own innate tendencies to belong to a group and protect our status? While there are many facets that may explain bullying, there seems to be a large part of it that we are simply born with in our genetics. We should take a step towards looking at ourselves as a human race in order to understand our faults, and hopefully one day alleviate many of them; including bullying.



Pennsylvania State University, World Campus (2018). PSYCH 424: Lesson 6: Intergroup Relations/Diversity. Retrieved from CANVAS: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1924488/modules

Duffy, A. L., & Nesdale, D. (2009). Peer Groups, Social Identity, and Children’s Bullying Behavior. Social Development18(1), 121-139. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2008.00484.x

Olthof, T., Goossens, F. A., Vermande, M. M., Aleva, E. A., & van der Meulen, M. (2011). Bullying as strategic behavior: Relations with desired and acquired dominance in the peer group. Journal of School Psychology, 29(3), 339-359. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2011.03.003

Feb 18

Gender Prejudice and Discrimination Amongst Wages and Labor in a Work Place

When I think about the terms prejudice and discrimination, the first thing that comes to mind is gender. In our society today, gender gaps within a work place are an ongoing issue. People of opposite genders are doing the same work for lower pay, simply because of their gender. So why is this? Is there a solution to this issue? Why in this day and age is our society still facing prejudice and discrimination against genders?

First, it is important to know exactly what gender, prejudice and discrimination are. People often think that gender and sex have the same meaning, but this is not the case. “Sex is the biological distinction of being a male or female, whereas gender is the social or learned characteristics that are associated with being male or female.” (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012.) Therefore, gender can be described as how we see men and women. This meaning that if we see a woman, we as a society would automatically think of her having feminine characteristics, and vice versa for men. Next, we have to define the terms prejudice and discrimination. “Prejudice is an attitude toward others based a specific group membership. When this attitude becomes a behavior, that is then what we call discrimination” (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012.) These two terms often go hand and hand. This is because often times when a specific group has an attitude towards something, a behavior will come soon after.

There was a study done that investigated gender wage inequality. In this study they found that “women who work in establishments in which relatively many of the managers are men have lower wages than do those women with similar qualifications and job demands who work in establishments with a stronger female representation in the power structure.” (Hultin & Szulkin, 1999.) This simply means that there is proven gender discrimination in deciding the wages of workers. People of opposite genders are doing the same work for lower pay. Male managers will pay male workers more money than they pay female workers. This is not because of the work they do, or the skills/qualifications they have, but simply because one is male, and one is female. Hultin & Szulkin (1999) also proved in their study that “men have less than two years more labor market experience than women have, and the gender differences in seniority with current employer as well as the number of years in education are negligible. Yet there are considerable differences in the allocation of women and men to jobs and establishments in the labor market.” (Hultin & Szulkin, 1999.) This again means that there are gender discriminations against females working in certain places.

Gender discrimination/prejudice in the work place is a big issue in society today. I am unsure if we will ever find a solution to this issue. There is a lot of evidence out there showing that men and women are more equal than different when it comes to employment, yet we still have this on going issue. This brings me back to my question in the beginning. Why in this day and age is our society still facing prejudice and discrimination against genders? Maybe we will never know that answer.



Hultin, M., & Szulkin, R. (1999). Wages and unequal access to organizational power: An empirical test of gender discrimination. Administrative Science Quarterly44(3), 453-472.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Feb 18

Take IT Forward

In my professional life, I work in the IT sector for a major bank. I have worked in IT for about a decade at this point and it has always felt like a good fit, in terms of culture. The IT world is a bit more laid back professionally, and there is a large emphasis placed on teamwork and group cohesion, as knowledge-sharing is imperative. As a woman, I rarely got the feeling that I was out of place or looked down upon for being in IT due to my gender (at least as far as my coworkers and management were concerned), and I didn’t spend much time thinking about my gender in relation to my job. Then one sunny day in 2015, a seemingly innocent interaction shook both my comfort and my confidence.

About midday, a male executive from another city pulled myself and all my female coworkers off the floor and into a large conference room, without explanation. There were only about 8 of us, and we realized quickly that our male coworkers were conspicuously absent. The executive then entered the room, and asked us why more women didn’t work in our department. He had, apparently, gotten a poor mark on a diversity scorecard, and wanted very much to set things straight. He asked what it was about technology that women don’t like. He asked us why we weren’t referring our female friends. He asked us if the men were making us feel uncomfortable with their “loose talk”, or if they smell bad. The eight of us were largely silent, which upset him, so he tasked us with creating a committee to determine why women weren’t applying so that it could be fixed. We were to meet every day for at least an hour until we could get him some clear steps forward. We were also to enroll in a “Women in IT” group, whose aim was to improve the IT skills of women and empower their professional development.

This executive’s mindset was a good example of benevolent sexism, which can be defined as attributing positive or desirable traits to one gender over another (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Sexism refers to any type of bias based on sex, but benevolent sexism specifically deals with positive-seeming biases. He believed that women were cleaner than men and less tolerant of curse words and racy conversational topics, and that these sensibilities could be why women wouldn’t want to work in our male-heavy department. Though it seems complimentary that this executive believed women to be more “pure” than the men they were surrounded with, his words were based on sexist stereotypes. Furthermore, since the women and the men on the floor used bawdy language in equal measure, the executive’s sexism had the added effect of shaming the women in the room for not being more “pure”, as though it made them less womanly to join in with their male coworker’s behavior. Although his intentions may have been good, the message the executive was sending us was decidedly harmful.

The eight of us in that room were not given the option of participating in this committee to determine why there weren’t more women in the department, but were told we had to do it. I felt that this was wrong, and was very angry while sitting at that table, but I didn’t speak up. I came to find out later that most of the women at the table were quite angry about this, but also felt that they should not speak up. I was a team lead at this point, and therefore of the eight women in the room I had the greatest authority. The women expected me to say something because of my position, but I felt that contradicting the executive in front of his subordinates would be unprofessional, which is why I remained silent. We all fell into the trap of the diffusion of responsibility, meaning that each of us felt that it was not our duty to address what was being said and done alone, thereby calling the brunt of his reaction down upon ourselves.

Furthermore, the eight of us in that room were also not given the opportunity of declining membership in the “Women in IT” group, which I found to be an even greater affront. My skills and the skills of my female coworkers were at least on-par with the skills of our male coworkers, so the idea that we needed to attend IT classes to get better at our jobs was insulting. Furthermore, these meetings are held every month at the same time, so if every women in our department left at the same time for a couple hours for one of these classes or meetings it would be very conspicuous. Going to these meetings caused me, and likely my other female coworkers, to feel stereotype threat, which is an anxiety that your behavior or performance will reinforce a stereotype about some aspect of yourself to others. By this executive telling the women in his department that they alone need more training, he was reinforcing to the males and to the females in the department that women need more help to be at the same level as men.

Now this stereotype threat could have had echoing consequences as well. Our jobs in this department required triaging and diagnosing technical issues, then choosing the right solution. Reminding women that a stereotype exists that says they are not as good at men at IT could cause their performance to tangibly decline. According to the NPR article “How Stereotypes Can Drive Women to Quit Science”, a study on stereotype threat by psychologist Claude Steele showed that when women were reminded that a stereotype existed saying that they were bad at math, they performed worse on an ensuing math test (Vedantam, 2012). These data have been generalized to many domains since they were gathered, and it seems likely that with further research this could include the field of IT.

To compound matters even further, all this time away from our desks for the “Women in IT” group as well as the meetings to determine how to get more women to join the department would have the added effect of adding more work to our male coworker’s plates. This added work would likely create resentment towards the women on the team, and create in-groups and out-groups along gender lines in the department where before, the in-group was all the workers on the floor and the outgroups were other departments, or teams in other locations (PSU WC, 2018). The men would feel like they were being unfairly loaded down with extra work, likely so that women could become “as good as them” at their jobs, and women would feel the sting of this resentment and may internalize negative concepts about their own skillsets.

If the executive had performed some research before he pulled us into that room, he may have discovered that the issue with women in technology is likely that women see very few women in the field and assume that they wouldn’t be good at it. Stereotype threat can hit almost immediately, and according to research, does. As Vedantam states in his NPR article, the best course to get women to join technology jobs is to get them to go into technology fields, which occurs before they ever hit our departmental floor (2012).
This initiative of the executives didn’t pan out very well, fortunately, and lost steam about two weeks after the initial meeting. Despite most of my fears about this situation never being realized, it still causes me very negative feelings when I think about it or discuss it, and I’m sure it has impacted how I present myself and the risks I am willing to take within my chosen field. While I certainly agree that a gender disparity within IT is an issue that deserves attention, it must be handled carefully so as to prevent further women from feeling discriminated against and staying away from the IT field.


Pennsylvania State University, World Campus (2018). PSYCH 424: Lesson 6: Intergroup Relations/Diversity. Retrieved from CANVAS: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1924488/modules

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Vedantam, S. (2012, July 12). How Stereotypes Can Drive Women To Quit Science. Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/2012/07/12/156664337/stereotype-threat-why-women-quit-science-jobs

Feb 18

High School Groups and their Correlation to Social Identity and Social Dominance Theories and Contact Hypothesis

Upon hearing about another tremendously tragic and terribly sad high school shooting, it made me think even more about the Social Identity, Social Dominance and Intergroup theories and how they particularly play a role in high schools. These groups were formed through social categorization–grouping those who were the most similar together. Still unsure of why there is a need for this today, but I suppose there is still some part of us who feels safest when we are in numbers with people who are like us as explained by the evolutionary psychologists, (PSU WC L6, 2018, p.1). At this point, I believe we have all been through high school and remember how it was segregated into these different social groups.

The most well-known and socially accepted groups were categorized into the Jocks, Nerds, Thespians, and Troublemakers. Social Identity theory states that individuals have their own personal identity as well as a social identity and the two overlap. Each individual person in these groups has their own personal moral sensibility, conscience and desires, but the group also plays a role in their beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. For instance, an individual in the Jock group may believe because of his athletic abilities he is superior and has a desire to succeed in sports, which would most likely go along with the other group member’s perception of themselves. When their social identity is tied to a group they derive part of their self-esteem from committing and belonging to the group, hence making it their in-group. Being part of the in-group provides protection and resources to the individuals and the group as a whole. Anyone who does not belong is considered the out-group and is not afforded the same protection and resources from that group. Instead they derive these things from the group they belong, which becomes their in-group and so on. Depending on any given situation, a person’s individual or social identity may dominate their behavior. For example, if the Jock group is being attacked and individual from that group steps up to protect them, they are most likely to use their social identity in the interaction, (PSU WC L6, p4).

This all sounds well and good until you take into account social dominance theory (SDT) and one group feeling superior over the others with a need to enforce a hierarchy where they serve as the dominant group. The Jocks were the ones who seemed to feel superior over the others when I was in school. Of the three SDT categories, they would qualify as an arbitrary set, rather than age or gender, coming together through the belief the world seemed to revolve around them. The Jocks seemed to have the physical power and resources to serve as the dominant group. They were given special treatment and perceived as having a positive social value, even over those who might be intellectually superior, reinforcing their in-group favoritism of each member. Additionally, they seemed to always be motivated to protect their group, unlike the other groups who just looked out for each other. The Jocks ensured their status by snubbing the other groups and ensuring they knew they who had the power and status (out-group derogation), (PSU WC L6, 2018, p5). This also happened down the hierarchy chain.

The rest of the hierarchy order was the Troublemakers, Nerds, then Thespians, The Troublemakers did not perceive the Jocks as superior nor did they have the desire to become part of the Jocks in-group; however, they did have a desire to be the dominant group. Perhaps they felt as if they became the dominant group they could shake their negative social status. This often caused a large amount of conflict between these two groups, (PSU WC L6, 2018, p.5). It may also be attributed to the fact that the individuals in both of these groups may have had a high Social Dominance Orientation (SDO). SDO is about the degree to which the individuals in the group want to keep the group hierarchy and dominate inferior groups. Along with SDT, it is posited that individuals high in SDO are always motivated to protect the group rather than providing that protection only during threatening situations. Individuals with high SDO are also predisposed to having prejudices and discriminating against other groups. Those individuals in dominant groups have been shown to have high SDO, (Pratto, Sidanious, & Levin, 2006). Additionally, in a study by Goodboy, Martin, & Rittenour, a correlation was found between high SDO and bullying behaviors in those in secondary school, (2016).

The Nerds and Thespians happily maintained the status quo, ceding any power and status they had to both groups reinforcing the legitimizing myths. In this case, I don’t think the subordinate groups were hopeful they would one day join the dominant group, although I am sure they wished they had the power and resources to do so. On occasion, an individual from one group may have sought and gained in-group favoritism from another group, (PSU WC L6, 2018, p5). These were times when the contact hypothesis came into play on an individual versus a group situation. For example, when individuals from varying social groups are in the same class and assigned to work together in groups and they have the opportunity to get to know each other they may even become friends. They have equal status as students in that classroom, the same goal of completing a project, and teacher’s support, meeting the three necessary conditions of contact theory. This did not, however, necessarily gain the individual who belonged to the lesser group, in-group favoritism of the other individual’s dominant group. Although sometimes it did buy some level of acceptance for the individual by the dominant group as well, (PSU WC L6, 2018, p.3).

All of these groups could be diverse within themselves with regard to race, gender, and to some degree age. Yet each group came with its own prejudices about the other and often displayed forms of discrimination amongst groups. Those high in SDO and in the dominant group may even have gone as far as to bully other individuals and groups.

Which brings me back to my original thought about the recent school shooting. If there is this dominant hierarchy and attitude among those who do belong to a social group and the potential for bullying those in lower status groups, what about those who don’t fit into any social group? Those individuals who do not belong, the one’s that are made fun of, bullied, ignored completely, or called a creepy loner?


Goodboy, A.K., Martin, M.M., & Rittenour, C.E. (2016). Bullying as a Display of Social

Dominance Orientation. Communication Research Reports, Vol.33 No.2, pp.159-165.

Penn State University World Campus. (2018). PSYCH424: Applied Social Psychology. Lesson 6: Intergroup Relations/Diversity. from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1924488/modules/items/23682591

Pratto, F., Sidanious, J., & Levin, S. (2006). Social dominance theory and the dynamics of intergroup relations: Taking stock and looking forward. European Review of Social Psychology, 17, 271-320.

Feb 18

The Disturbing Truth of Workplace Discrimination

If someone were to ask you to provide a definition of three terms, specifically, stereotype, prejudice and discrimination, what would you say? How would you respond? What language would you use? Would you phrase your response in a positive or negative light? Most importantly, would you be able to effectively differentiate these three terms? It can certainly be argued that society has come a long way with respect to all three but the unfortunate truth is that they all still exist today. But, going back to the original question, what do they actually mean and why do they matter?

In order to grasp the purpose of this post, you need to know the definition of the above terms. A stereotype is a belief held by an individual, about certain characteristics or behaviors for members of a specific group (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Prejudice can be described as an attitude towards someone else based on specific group membership; when that attitude becomes an actual behavior towards another, it is referred to as discrimination (Schneider et al., 2012). For example, a stereotype regarding gay men is that they are all sexually promiscuous. An example of prejudice is when people say that they dislike all gay men because they are sexual predators. Discrimination can then occur when gay men experience negative insults or slurs based upon these common misconceptions.

The examples provided above are not just based upon observation; instead, they are all things that I have directly experienced throughout the last 10 – 15 years. Truthfully, I had never realized that I was the victim of discrimination until after high school. Looking back, it is easy to pick out examples of some truly unfortunate behaviors towards me. As the years have passed though, I have seen a decline in the amount of direct discrimination towards myself and others; however, it is still prevalent enough to warrant a discussion, specifically regarding workplace discrimination of LGBT individuals. Some people seem to be under the false understanding that LGBT individuals no longer face workplace discrimination, but the following statistics and studies paint a much different picture.

First, one in four LGBT employees reported experiencing employment discrimination in the last five years; the transgender unemployment rate is three times higher than the national average; nearly one in 10 LGBT employees have left a job because the environment was not welcoming; eight percent stated that this discrimination made their work environment negative and even worse, one in four LGBT adults struggled to put food on the table (Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, 2017). It is true that some states protect LGBT individuals within the workplace, but there is currently no federal law that prevents employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (Stern, 2015). In other words, there is no true consistency when it comes to protection for LGBT individuals. Some wonder how the EEOC can believe sexual orientation to already be illegal, without a true federal law. The short response is that it all relates to interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the EEOC believes it protects LGBT individuals, the current Department of Justice disagrees (Riotta, 2017) and the Supreme Court has refused to consider a case to make a final determination (Wolf, 2017). So why does this matter and what types of discrimination can occur?

András Tilcsik (2011) demonstrated that gay men encounter barriers in a hiring process because employers will more readily disqualify openly gay applicants than equally qualified heterosexual applicants. Additionally, gay job applicants were 40% less likely to be offered a job interview. Geographic variation was also found to be very high, with some states in the southern and midwestern U.S. showing strong discrimination practices and those in the western and northeastern states showing little discrimination (Tilcsik, 2011). Badgett, Sears, Lau and Ho (2009) demonstrated, by examining 10 years of data, that sexual orientation-based discrimination and gender identity discrimination was a common workplace practice in many areas across the country. Additionally, gay men were shown to earn approximately 10% – 32% less than heterosexual men and findings show that employers, sales clerks and some outside observers have treated LGB applicants or customers differently than heterosexuals (Badgett, Sears, Lau, & Ho, 2009).

In a more recent study, 37 percent of LG individuals had experienced workplace harassment during the previous five years, 12 percent had lost their job because of sexual orientation and 33 percent refused to be open about their sexuality within the workplace (Pizer, Sears, Mallory, & Hunter, 2012). Some people argue that they would prefer not to hear about sexuality in the workplace anyway, which is completely fair and understandable; however, the problem arises with the inevitable relationship discussions or common workplace banter. In having been in those situations, it may seem easy to simply ignore those questions or ask that they not be discussed but you then run the risk of being ostracized or being labeled as cold and rude.

There is no dispute of the fact that there have certainly been improvements relative to workplace acceptance of LGBT individuals. However, these improvements are not equally spread or applied in a consistent manner. Worse yet, even with some of these protections, levels of experienced discrimination still run high enough to warrant change. That said, the purpose is not to force a particular agenda; rather, the purpose is to provide awareness, especially given that stereotypes, prejudiced behavior and discrimination are very much still in existence. The question then is how can we go about helping to reduce this discrimination? What interventions can be implemented to ensure that we are providing a more equal and welcoming atmosphere? And if it may seem that these questions are of little importance, I can assure you that having been in some of these situations, you would certainly not want to be in them for yourself.


Badgett, M. V. L., Sears, B., Lau, H. S., & Ho, D. (2009). Bias in the workplace: Consistent evidence of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination 1998-2008. Retrieved from http://scholarship.law.unc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1186&context=faculty_publications

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. (2017). 2017 Workplace Equality Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://outandequal.org/2017-workplace-equality-fact-sheet/

Pizer, J., Sears, B., Mallory, C., & Hunter, N. D. (2012). Evidence of persistent and pervasive workplace discrimination against LGBT people: The need for federal legislation prohibiting discrimination and providing for equal employment benefits. Loyola Law Review Los Angeles, 45(3), 715-779. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3wf4t3q9#main

Riotta, C. (2017, September). Trump administration says employers can fire people for being gay. Newsweek. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/trump-doj-fired-being-gay-lgbt-issues-jeff-sessions-673398

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Stern, M. J. (2015, July). EEOC rules workplace sexual orientation discrimination already illegal under federal law. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/07/16/sexual_orientation_discrimination_at_work_eeoc_says_it_s_illegal_under_federal.html

Tilcsik, A. (2011). Pride and prejudice. Employment discrimination against openly gay men in the United States. American Journal of Sociology, 117(2), 586-626. doi: 10.1086/661653

Wolf, R. (2017, December 11). Supreme Court won’t hear LGBT job discrimination case. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/12/11/supreme-court-wont-hear-lgbt-job-discrimination-case/940028001/

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