Proportional representation and regulatory focus : the case for cohorts among female creatives

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2008-08
Authors
Windels, Kasey Farris
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Abstract

Females are under-represented in advertising agencies by a ratio of 2.3 to 1. This paper examines the impact of gender proportions on an individuals regulatory focus (Higgins 1997). The theory of proportional representation (Kanter 1977) states that individuals in the severe minority within a group may be unable to acclimate to the group, causing performance and identification problems. Regulatory focus theory (Higgins 1997) states that there are two types of regulatory foci, a promotion focus and a prevention focus, which bring about different goal pursuits and strategies for success. It was predicted that proportional representation scenarios could induce regulatory focus, with majority representation inducing a promotion focus and minority representation inducing a prevention focus. Results from Studies 1a, 1b and 1c do not find support for this prediction. In Study 2, regulatory fit is used to explain the moderating effect of proportional representation on regulatory focus. Regulatory fit states that a match “between a person’s orientation to an activity and the means used to pursue that activity” (Higgins 2000, p. 1218) brings about a feeling of fit, causing the person to value and enjoy the task more and to have greater motivation on the task. It was predicted that membership both in a promotion focus and in the majority or membership both in a prevention focus and in the minority should bring about a feeling of fit resulting in increased motivation and value placed on the task, thus better results on the task. Study 2 tested seven dependent variables, and found support for fit for three of the dependent variables. In addition, one dependent variable measuring the generation of novel uses for a brick better supports the predictions of the theory of proportional representation than those of regulatory focus. Theoretical and practical implications are given.

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