Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Andrew M. Carton
Research on employees from marginalized groups finds that when they feel like tokens, they can experience lower well-being and lower levels of job-satisfaction, which can lead them to disengage from their work over time. How might marginalized group members overcome these negative effects, given that it is often challenging for them to remove or completely avoid the causes of feeling like a token? To help answer this, I focus specifically on one antecedent of tokenism – low expectations based on group membership. Research on stereotype reactance indicates that marginalized group members may sometimes rebuff low expectations and strive to prove them wrong, but this response is not fully understood. Importantly, this research takes for granted that people who seek to prove expectations wrong are driven by self-related motives, despite passing reference to concerns for the stereotyped group and anecdotal examples to the contrary. To address this discrepancy, I introduce trailblazing motivation, which captures the desire to set new precedents that open doors for others. I argue that for marginalized group members, trailblazing motivation is activated to the extent that people perceive low expectations and feel a greater sense of belonging with their broad marginalized group. I further hypothesize that trailblazing motivation will attenuate the negative effects of feelings of tokenism on persistence. I test and find robust support for these hypotheses across a time-lagged survey study and two experiments.
Knowlton, Karren, "Trailblazing Motivation And Marginalized Group Members: Defying Expectations To Pave The Way For Others" (2021). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 3774.