Berdahl, Jennifer L., Marianne Cooper, Peter Glick, Robert W. Livingston, and Joan C. Williams. "Workplace masculinity contests and culture." Routledge Handbook on Men, Masculinities and Organizations. Ed. Jeff Hearn, Kadri Aavik, David L. Collinson, and Anika Thym. Routledge, 2024

What’s the issue?

HKS faculty member Robert Livingston and colleagues explore the phenomenon of Masculinity Contest Cultures (MCCs) in organizations and why they are likely linked to undesirable workplace behaviors such as toxic leadership, lack of psychological safety, and reduced employee wellbeing—affecting men as well as women and minority populations.

What does the research say?

The authors suggest a key reason the workplace gender revolution has stalled is that the workplace continues to support masculinity contests among men.

Organizations with MCCs define work as a competition won by those with traits men “ought” to have, including being aggressive, assertive, independent, ambitious, competitive, and strong. The research indicates that such cultures create “cascading negative consequences that flow from the top down.”


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