The Effect of Tokenism on Mixed-Sex Teams

M4D1: The Effect of Tokenism on Mixed-Sex Teams
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Identify the problems of token males and females.
Analyze the experiences of token males and females.
Powell’s discussion of Kanter’s research highlights experiences of token males and females (section on Sex Similarity Effects in Chapter 5 of the textbook).

Discussion Question:

“Does the presence of a token male or female on a mixed-sex team reduce or enhance the effectiveness of that team? Develop your answer with reference to an example with which you are familiar (whether from the reading or your personal experience) and by utilizing the concepts from the module reading as an analytical lens.”

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Read any postings already provided by your instructor or fellow students.

Remember to read the feedback to your own major postings and reply to it throughout the module.

See the rubric for due dates for posts and responses.

Keep the following points in mind:

The overall climate as well as effectiveness of the team is properly explained.
The impact of the team’s mixed-sex composition is explained with pertinent examples.

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This discussion will be graded using the discussion board rubric. Please review this rubric, located on the Rubrics page within the Start Here module of the course, prior to beginning your work to ensure your participation meets the criteria in place for this discussion. All discussions combined are worth 25% of your final course grade.


Expert Answer


The Effect of Tokenism on Mixed-Sex Teams


Does the presence of a token male or female on a mixed-sex team reduce or enhance the effectiveness of that team?

The practice of making only a symbolic or perfunctory effort to make a team inclusive to members of a minority group – popularly referred to as tokenism, is very common in today’s business world. Organizations today recruit a small number of employees from the underrepresented groups in society in an attempt to give the impression of sexual or racial equality within their workforce. These people, known as token employees, are intended to create an impression of diversity and social inclusiveness in order to avoid accusations of discrimination. Gender equality and representation have become very popular social issues today, forcing organizations to consider using token employees in work teams and management composition. Generally, mixed-sex teams perform better than teams made up of men or women exclusively (Rogelberg & Rumery, 1996). According to research, having a gender balance or a mixed-sex team results in better performance and results (Ivanova-Stenzel & Kübler, 2011). In investment management, for instance, having gender balance leads to stronger returns and more investors.

With the presence of a token male or female in a team, however, the effectiveness of the team is lowered. The token member has a high probability of disagreeing with the decisions or proposals of the other team members, which may affect the performance of the team and result in problems within the group. Token members tend to act in a way that safeguards their position in a team and have a tendency to force their opinions on the other team members. According to Duguid (2011), “When a woman is the only female (a “token” female) in a high-prestige workgroup, she is unlikely to recruit another woman to her team for fear of being either outperformed or undervalued”. The study by Duguid (2011) showed that token members in groups or teams may influence the decisions made by the team negatively in a bid to protect their own interests. In the same way, a token male or female in a work team has a high probability of negatively affecting the performance of the team, mostly because they tend to collide with the team members and disagree with them.


Duguid, M. (2011). Female tokens in high-prestige work groups: Catalysts or inhibitors of group diversification? Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 116(1), 104-115.

Ivanova-Stenzel, R., & Kübler, D. (2011). Gender differences in team work and team competition. Journal of Economic Psychology, 32(5), 797-808.

Rogelberg, S. G., & Rumery, S. M. (1996). Gender diversity, team decision quality, time on task, and interpersonal cohesion. Small group research, 27(1), 79-90.

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