Gender and Society 5 (2):178-192 (1991)

The purpose of this article is to assess Rosabeth Moss Kanter's work on tokenism in light of more than a decade of research and discussion. While Kanter argued that performance pressures, social isolation, and role encapsulation were the consequences of disproportionate numbers of women and men in a workplace, a review of empirical data concludes that these outcomes occur only for token women in gender-inappropriate occupations. Furthermore, Kanter's emphasis on number balancing as a social-change strategy failed to anticipate backlash from dominants. Blalock's theory of intrusiveness suggests that surges in the number of lower-status members threaten dominants, thereby increasing gender discrimination in the forms of sexual harassment, wage inequities, and limited opportunities for promotion. Although Kanter's analysis of the individual consequences of tokenism was compelling to researchers and organizational change agents, continued reliance on numbers as the theoretical cause of, and as the solution to, gender discrimination in the workplace neglects the complexities of gender integration.
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DOI 10.1177/089124391005002003
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