Agency and Virtue: Dimensions Underlying Subgroups of Women

T. William Altermatt, C. Nathan DeWall, Emily Leskinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Previous research indicates that the stereotype of women can be considered to have 3 subgroups: housewife, career woman, and sex object. In 2 samples (N = 19 and 35), we found evidence that these subgroups can be reliably distinguished in terms of 2 dimensions: agency and virtue. Participants sorted 27 feminine traits and then rated these traits in terms of their agency and virtue. Cluster analysis and multidimensional scaling with property fitting were used to identify subgroups, to fit virtue and agency dimensions to the subgroups, and to test for differences among the subgroups in terms of virtue and agency. Across both samples, agency and virtue fit the subgroups well (average R2 = .75), produced many significant differences among the subgroups, and are consistent with a system-justification perspective of sexism (Click & Fiske, 2001) in which a belief in women's virtue and lack of agency reflects and maintains status differences between men and women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-641
Number of pages11
JournalSex Roles
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Dec 2003

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Cluster analysis
  • Gender role attitudes
  • Role expectations
  • Social perception and cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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