Lay perceptions of an expert witness in a sexual discrimination in the workplace case
This study reprised social psychologist Susan Fiske's role as expert witness in a sexual discrimination case in which a claim was successfully brought by an assertive female accountant against her employers, Price Waterhouse. It explored whether a female expert would be judged by mock jurors as more effective than a male expert in the case of an equivalent gender role-violating (i.e. feminine) male employee, and whether judgements would be influenced by the employee's occupation type—male dominated (accountancy) or female dominated (midwifery). Participants responded to a range of case-related questions after reading a ‘judge's summary’ of a hypothetical action alleging sexual discrimination in the workplace by means of sexual stereotyping. Expert witness' sex, plaintiff's (i.e. employee's) sex, and workplace type were manipulated in the summary. Evidence for the greater effectiveness of a female social science expert in the ‘gender domain congruent’ area of sexual stereotyping was found; however, plaintiff's sex and occupation type did not influence the participants' judgements except that experts supporting female plaintiffs were viewed positively. The participants' attitudes towards the case, and to other personnel involved, were negative. Analysis of the participants' comments indicated considerable distrust of and scepticism about social science.