Gender Bias May Discourage Men from Certain Careers
Over the past few decades, we've seen headlines denouncing gender inequality in the workplace. Conversations around the gender gap tend to focus on women's experiences of bias and discrimination in male-dominated fields such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Despite strides to dismantle barriers to women's advancement in STEM careers, equal efforts have not been made to address men's dramatic underrepresentation in healthcare, early education and domestic (HEED) fields.
That's according to Corinne Moss-Racusin, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, who studies how stereotypes contribute to inequality within different kinds of institutions.
Gender disparities are often more prominent in HEED industries than in STEM. For example, an estimated 40 percent to 50 percent of scientists and statisticians identify as women, whereas only 3 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers and 13 percent of nurses identify as men, according to 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Moss-Racusin and her colleagues recently investigated this understudied issue. Through a two-part study, published in September 2022 by the American Psychological Association (APA), the researchers sought to measure the influence of male gender bias on deterring men from pursuing HEED careers.
Breaking down the research
For the first part of the study, the researchers involved nearly 300 participants from the United States. The team supplied one group of participants with an article discussing real research revealing that early education institutions favor female teacher applicants over male applicants with equal qualifications. A second group read an article alleging that early education exhibits gender equality. A third group was given nothing to read.
For the second part of the study, researchers conducted an identical study with 275 students at Skidmore College.
In both experiments, the research team found male participants expressed less sense of belonging, positivity toward and desire to pursue HEED careers after they read an article explaining the real anti-male gender bias that permeates these fields.
Previous research, also led by Moss-Racusin, indicated that gender bias favoring men in STEM careers had less impact on study participants.
"This raises the concerning possibility that gender bias plays an even more substantial role in deterring men from HEED than it does in deterring women from STEM," the researchers wrote.
"There's no evidence that men are biologically incapable of doing this work or that men and women are naturally oriented toward different careers," Moss-Racusin said in December 2022 in an APA report.
"It's a detriment to society if we keep slotting people into gendered roles and stay the course on gender-segregated career paths, regardless of whether those jobs are traditionally associated with women or men," she added. "That's a powerful way of reinforcing the traditional gender status quo."