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Strength in Numbers?: A Test of Kanter's Theory of Tokenism

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 38 Issue: 4 Dated: July/August 2010 Pages: 633-639
Amy J. Stichman; Kimberly D. Hassell; Carol A. Archbold
Date Published
July 2010
7 pages
Kanter's tokenism theory argues that once tokens reach a tipping point of 15 percent representation in the work place, they begin to experience fewer work place problems. This study tested this assertion using a survey of 87 officers in a midwestern municipal police agency, where female officers constituted over 17 percent of the total sworn patrol officers.
The three dimensions of tokenism were examined quantitatively to ascertain differences between male and female officers. On two of the dimensions, there were no differences between male and female officers, but the third dimension showed that female officers still perceived their work place differently from male officers. Only partial support of Kanter's theory was found. It was evident that even in this department, however, females still felt like they stood out and were underestimated by their peers. The findings also suggested that tokenism is more complex than a "numbers game," and that quantitative examinations alone might not fully explain the myriad aspects of tokenism. (Published Abstract)