In this paper I review the literature on impression Management to determine if there are substantial gender differences in the employment of impression management tactics in organizational contexts. Based on a social roles theory perspective (Eagly, 1987), examines use of impression management tactics in organizational settings for gender differences in behavior. We expected that men and women would generally report using impression management tactics consistent with gender role expectations and that this might not be advantageous to women in the corporate world.
Women comprise a substantial portion approximately 46% of today’s workforce (Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, 2005; Segal, 1992). However, despite nearly equal representation in the workplace, there is a substantial gender difference in their career progression. Although nearly one half the workforces is comprised of women, they occupy only one-third of all management positions (Colwill, 1993; Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, 2005), and women are more likely to be junior or middle managers rather than senior executives. Only 3% of women in the workforce occupy senior management roles (Segal, 1992). In addition, an examination of gender differences in career progression indicated that men experienced faster salary progression than did women, even though the men and women in the study were matched on education and work experience (Stroh, Brett, & Reilly, 1992). Therefore, women are woefully underrepresented in the highest ranks of many organizations (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, 1995), and they earn significantly less than do men in comparable jobs (Thacker, 1995). For example, in the year 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that, across all career fields, women’s salaries were 77% of that of comparable men (Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, 2005). Other research indicates that women earn less than men in commensurate jobs even after other relevant variables are controlled (Dreher, Dougherty, & Whitely, 1989). This gender difference in salary is greatest at the highest ranks in an organization (Thacker, 1995). In addition to differences in salary and advancement, there is a gender difference in corporate drop out rate.
According to Erving Goffman (1959, p. 9), the founder of the dramaturgical approach, life is like a play, and we each perform for others: “When an individual plays a part, he Implicitly requests his observers to take seriously the impression that is fostered before them.” Impression management, also called self-presentation, is the process by which individuals attempt to control the impressions others form of them (Goffman, 1959; Jones, 1990; Rosenfeld, Edwards, & Thomas, 2005; Schlenker, 1980). Individuals manage their behavior and personal characteristics in the presence of others in an attempt to create a specific impression on their audience. Thus, an individual may seek to create different impressions on different audiences based on his or her specific goal for the interaction. Individuals may have different impression management goals (e.g., to be liked, to appear competent, to appear successful/high in status), and these goals vary by context (e.g., a person on a date may be primarily interested in self-presenting as likeable rather than competent, whereas the opposite may be true in a job interview). Impression management is usually strategic, but it is not usually deceptive (Leary, 1995). That is, people typically present aspects of themselves oriented toward making their desired impression, but they do not typically fabricate such aspects. Impression management is distinctly different from two related constructs: social desirability and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). Social desirability is an individual difference characteristic where some individuals tend to behave in a manner they believe will be viewed favorably for the situation regardless...