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Janice Yoder


Training Location(s):

PhD (Social Psychology), State University of New York at Buffalo, (1979)

Primary Affiliation(s):

University of Akron, (1998-2015)

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, (1989-1998)

Webster University, (1981-1986)

Kent State University, (2015-present)

Media Links:
Professional Website

Janice Yoder at the University of Akron


Psychology's Feminist Voices Interview Transcript


Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: Tokenism




Career Focus: Gender differences; women and work; tokenism; women and power; leadership; scholarship of teaching and learning.


Like many of her feminist colleagues, Dr. Janice Yoder confesses that it was not until late into her twenties that she gradually became aware of her unequal status as a woman in society. She attended Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania as an undergraduate, a small liberal arts college which "had a ratio of two men to every one woman." In fact, Yoder recalled, she had not only been critical of the college's attempt to equalize the ratio at the time, she had indeed enjoyed the privilege of being a member of the small group of women.


Yoder characterizes her "feminist awakening" as a slow process that occurred "over the course of growing up." By "growing up", she points out that it was not until well into her graduate education that she started to notice the preferential treatment reserved for to male graduate students. She remembers: "male faculty would take male graduate students to convention and introduce them around [whereas] I remember a faculty introducing me to Neal Miller as one of the graduate students who was accepted for her looks!" The differential treatment continued into her first job right out of graduate school; she recalls that she found herself sexually harassed, and her abilities as a scholar were diminished by senior faculty.


In 1977, Yoder was hired by the military to work on Project Athena. Project Athena was a decade-long study of women's integration into the United States military academy at West Point. She did data analysis which later became the basis upon which officials at West Point decided to recruit women to teach at the academy. Thus on July 1st 1980, Yoder arrived at West Point as a young 27 year-old civilian faculty. Despite the excitement of a relatively prestigious beginning in her teaching career, West Point quickly felt like a sort of confinement.  She remembers: "... it was living in a fishbowl. I started twitching, and after six months of a two year contract, I left West Point."


It was this experience of "being in a fishbowl" that informed her subsequent work on tokenism. In a paper that appeared in the Journal of Social Issues, Yoder spoke about tokenism from a personal perspective, and it was in fact this publication that had her permanently removed from Project Athena. For Yoder, Kanter's theory of "tokenism" was particularly appealing because it provided a framework for understooding and conceptualizing women's social difficulties, their marginalization and their performance stress as a direct result of structural imbalances. As she points out: " I found that very, very appealing, ... it explained to me that what I was feeling as personal failure was really pretty much predetermined by the structure of the context that I was in ... as a social psychologist, that made a lot of sense to me." Indeed, Yoder admits, Kanter's theory propelled her into what has became a prestigious career in feminist social psychology.


She first looked at men's ability to succeed in female-dominated occupations, finding that they were remarkably successful in comparison to women who attempted to infiltrate traditionally masculine professions. She later incorporated an additional component into this work on tokenism: race. Yoder conducted a study of female experiences in the firefighting profession. Here, however, she focused on the differences in experience among women based on their race. Unsurprisingly, she found that both white and black women largely felt stereotyped. However, it was the difference in the nature of the stereotyping unique to each racial group that made each group's experience different:


"Because the stereotype that African American women faced was that they were strong, self-reliant, and did not need help, ... they were actually left on their own to flounder; while the stereotype that white women dealt with was that they were fragile, and they needed to be protected, ... so people were smothering them with unwanted help [and] it actually kept them from doing their jobs."


Yoder's research methods include laboratory approaches, qualitative methods, and field work. She believes it is this methodological pluralism - which she sees as essentially feminist - that allows researchers to understand gender and racial oppression in their full contexts. It is also this philosophy of blending and marrying ways of conceptualizing research questions and approaches that Yoder hopes to bring with her in her upcoming tenure as editor of Psychology of Women Quarterly:


"It is one of the things I want to try to work on; I want to see if we can expand the discourse in the profession ... I have never really focused on one methodology or one way of doing things, so I like that breadth, I like that kind of cross-fertilization of ideas, which I do not think it is appreciated in the mainstream as much as it should be."


When it comes to feminist psychology's biggest impact, however, Yoder believes it occurs in the classroom. In fact, she insists that teaching has been the most exciting aspect of her career as a feminist psychologist. The joy of witnessing meaningful changes in students' attitudes toward gender issues, their ability to move away from essentialist thinking to social constructivist ways of seeing the world, and their increased feminist identification, continue to make her feminist journey worthwhile. Indeed, Yoder sees her dedication to teaching and mentoring as the accomplishment of which she is most proud; it is her "most wonderful legacy."       

For feminists entering the field of psychology today, Yoder emphasizes the importance of relationship-building with peers and educators: "If I look over the course of my career  ... my ways of thinking ... all come from interacting with a network of scholars, of students and colleagues ... there is nothing to my career that I cannot trace back to a person."

by Axelle Karera (2010)
To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works:


Yoder, J. D. (2007). Women and gender: Making a difference (3rd edition). Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan Publishing.


Yoder, J. D., Perry, R. L. & Saal, E. I. (2007). What good is taking a feminist identity?: Women's feminist identification and role expectations for intimate and sexual relationships. Sex Roles, 57, 365-372.


Yoder, J. D. (2006). Tokenism. In J. H. Greenhouse & G. A. Callanan, Encyclopedia of career development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Yoder, J. D. & Kahn, A. S. (2003). Making gender comparisons more meaningful: A call for more attention to social context. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 27, 281-290.


Yoder, J. D. & Berendson, L. L. (2001). "Outsider within" the firehouse: African American and White women firefighters. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 25, 27-36.


Yoder, J. D. (2001). Making leadership work more effectively for women. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 815-828.


Yoder, J. D. (1998). The reproduction of a skeptical, feminist, social psychologist. Feminism & Psychology, 8, 84-89.


Yoder, J. D. & Kahn, A. S. (1992). Toward a feminist understanding of women and power. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 16, 381-388.


Yoder, J. D. (1985). An academic woman as a token: A case study. Journal of Social Issues, 41, 61-72.


Yoder, J. D. (1979). Teaching students to do interviewing. Teaching of Psychology, 6, 107.

Photo Gallery:


Interview with Janice Yoder: Research on Gender and Tokenism

Interview conducted on April 28, 2008 by Alexandra Rutherford in Akron, Ohio, U.S.A.