Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Science




Weststar, Johanna


Previous research has found that female managers and those who might benefit from diversity initiatives receive lower perceived competence ratings when they engage in activities that support or value diversity. Theoretically, this is supported by the role congruity theory, expectation states theory, and stereotype content model. This study sought to replicate these findings in the context of highly competent non-managerial employees and to examine the impact of mentorship on perceived competence ratings. The demerit to perceived competence from gender and using one’s voice to support diversity was not replicated in this study. However, mentorship had a modest positive effect on perceived competence of employees regardless of gender or whether they overtly valued diversity. This study has implications for the types of mentors that can vouch for mentees, and the impact of study design and measures of perceived competence.

Summary for Lay Audience

The study was an endeavor to assess whether highly competent employees would be affected by speaking up on demographic diversity, most importantly when including women in the discourse. Previous literature has suggested that people who speak out on increasing the representation of certain groups via hiring, promotion, or opportunities may face backlash from others. This backlash may be manifested in others’ lowered evaluations of their competence, whereby these employees may be presumed less competent because of their endorsement of measures may serve to benefit themselves, such as women in male-dominated occupations and/or industries.

Additionally, mentors are thought to benefit mentees and we sought to test whether having a mentor could signal to others that a mentee/employee was competent, that is able and capable as vouched for by a mentor sponsoring them. Using a vignette survey study on a random sample of people across North America, participants were recruited through the platform Amazon Mechanical Turk. They were presented several vignettes of employees that were either clear advocates of demographic diversity or of an undisclosed stance. Participants were asked to rate employees on a competence scale based on several behaviours performed by the respective employee. For example, descriptions included meeting deliverables and being timely. Among the vignettes, the gender of the employee (i.e., female or male) differed and were each indicated with gendered pronouns within the script for clarity. The employees were either affiliated, or not, with mentors of high status as indicated by their organizational position and success. In this study, people on a diversity task force did not experience demerits to how others evaluated their competence, nor was there a gender difference in perceived competence. However, they were perceived as more competent if they were associated with a mentor. Though the effect was small, it was present in both depictions of male and female vignettes. There are implications for people who might consider fostering mentorship relationships and considering the power of social context in leveraging how others view their competence, especially if they belong in marginalized groups that may not align stereotypically with the conventional participants of the workspace.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License