Intersectional Escape: Older Women Elude Agentic Prescriptions More Than Older Men

Intersectional Escape: Older Women Elude Agentic Prescriptions More Than Older Men

By
Ashley Martin, Michael S. North, Katherine W. Phillips
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. March
1, 2019, Vol. 45, Issue 3, Pages 342-359

Both older individuals and women are proscribed from engaging in power-related behaviors, with women proscribed from behaving agentically and older individuals expected to cede desirable resources through “Succession.” However, little is known about whether these overlapping agency prescriptions equally target men and women across the lifespan. In seven studies, we find that older men face the strongest prescriptions to behave less agentically and cede resources, whereas older women are comparatively spared. We show that agency prescriptions more strongly target older men, compared to older women (Studies 1a, 1b, 2) and their younger counterparts (Studies 3 and 4) and examine social and economic consequences for agentic behavior in political, economic, and academic domains. We also find that older men garner more extreme (i.e., polarized) reactions due to their greater perceived resource threat (Studies 4-6). We conclude by discussing theoretical implications for diversity research and practical considerations for accommodating the fast-aging population.