How Occupational Expectations Differ by Gender

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  • 0:03 Gender Expectations
  • 1:17 Female Assumptions
  • 3:43 Male Assumptions
  • 5:01 Confrontation
  • 5:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

In this lesson, we will explore the different types of stereotypes and expectations that come with gender. Included in this are typical assumptions based solely on gender and what happens when people confront these stereotypes.

Gender Expectations

Let's play a game; we'll call it 'Guess the gender.'

  • Engineer in charge of construction for a high-rise skyscraper in New York City
  • Registered nurse taking care of elderly patients
  • Schoolteacher for a first grade class

What are the genders? I assume that most of you could tell that I was trying to show that even if we know there is no gender labeled, there is an inherent assumption about gender. For example, most people probably assumed the engineer, a position that requires a great deal of technical knowledge as well as mathematical acuity, is a male position. This still holds true to some degree, with less than 20% of engineering program students being female.

Gender role expectations are assumptions of future choices about a person based solely on their physical gender. Women go into caring positions, healing positions and lower education positions, like kindergarten or first grade teaching. Men go into power positions, controlling positions and higher education positions.

Female Assumptions

By far one of the most ridiculous things is gender limitations, especially the stupid ones that have come up for women. Are there differences between genders? Yes. Typically, women take care of children, are in caretaker roles and don't become things like truckers or carpenters. But just because there are common ways things go about, doesn't necessarily mean there is some innate quality to females and males that puts them in these roles.

I have heard some reasons given why women can or cannot do something. The reasons get ridiculous, like:

  • 'Females lack upper body strength,' which may be true as an average, but there are some women who could stuff me into a sardine can.
  • 'Females are more verbally oriented,' which is true, again, on average. But some women are more task and action oriented.
  • 'Females are more influenced by their emotions.' This one may or may not be true on average; we'll get into more of that in the next section.
  • 'Females lack mental or mathematical skill.'

The last one here is a good one. There are times when people claim they can use science to figure out something. Always be skeptical of people who claim they can prove something. Let's look at a couple of different types of studies that have been done.

The first study is a math test. Two groups, with each group half male and half female, were given a math test. The first group was told that this test was difficult for women to complete correctly. The females did terrible on the test, with some not even completing the test and giving up. The second group was told the truth, that there were no gender differences on the test. Men and women did equal on this one.

The second example is an intelligence test. Intelligence tests have their flaws; I won't deny that. There are cultural issues that abound in intelligence tests, which means averages for certain races are lower just because of a lack of familiarity with some of the concepts the test is testing. They also do show women scoring a little higher on verbal tasks than men. What they don't show are differences between genders overall or that women's intelligences were more or less spread out than average. There are subtle differences in overall averages of things, like verbal skills or mathematical skills, but they disappear at the individual level.

Male Assumptions

This is one of the things that really bugs me - the assumptions about men. I know that there are terrible and egregious assumptions and problems put before women. But, to say that just because women's stereotypes are worse than men's and therefore men's stereotypes don't matter, is mighty unfair.

There are assumptions about males, too, just like with women. They are as follows:

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