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May a woman be a good analyst? Gender stereotype versus occupation

In many countries, including Poland, there is a classification into typically ‘female’ (kindergarten teacher, nurse) and ‘male’ (soldier, maths teacher) professions is noticeable. A question arises: do women and men have a chance to achieve the professional success in the field which is incompatible with their gender?

According to the adopted stereotype of the gender, women should be disposed towards community and be characterised by sensitivity, emotionality and submissiveness. However, men are expected to be creative, ambitious and effective. The presence of the gender stereotype was stated in over 30 countries including the USA, Brazil, France, Japan, Poland, Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates. What is the reason for differences between women and men? According to Sandra Bem (Wojciszke, 2006), a stereotyped gender identity, that is developing in the cultures the typically male and female models of behaviours can be an explanation. Therefore, in many countries people are surprised, seeing the woman soldier or the man working as a babysitter. Alice Eagly (Wojciszke, 2006) explains the appearance of the gender stereotype with differences in the social roles of women and men. Women are expected to take care of the house and children, and men – support a family.

A lot of research was carried out considering possible differences between genders. In Poland Bogdan Wojciszke and Sylwia Bedyńska deal with the analyses of perceiving people according to the gender stereotype. Below I would like to present the review of selected foreign and Polish research important from a point of view of the present article.

Silverman and Eals (Wojciszke, 2006) carried out research which confirmed that men have much better spatial skills in the dimensions of intellectual rotations and spatial relations, whereas women have a better memory of location. Hyde and others (1990 Wojciszke, 2006) compared women and men in terms of mathematical skills. The differences between them was described by the standard difference between averages - d distance calculated with the formula: (men’s average – women’s average) / standard deviation). The result shows that the difference in terms of mathematical skills amounts to only 0.2[1]. Additionally, Voyer and others (1995, too: Wojciszke, 2006) examined the d measure depending on spatial abilities. They got the following results: spatial visualisation (d = 0.19), spatial spotting (d = 0.44) and intellectual rotations (d = 0.56).

In spite of differences in terms of certain mental abilities, there is no bigger difference between women and men in the level of intelligence (Wojciszke, 2006). It was stated that women get average scores much more often than men, men are more frequently at the ends of the scale. The distribution of the intelligence in the group of women and men is presented on the following graph.

Distribution of the intelligence in the group of women and men

Also Strand conducted interesting research (2006, Wojciszke, 2006). He examined 11 and 12 years old children with regards to verbal, non-verbal, quantitative and cognitive reasoning. The result he achieved is presented below[2]:

Verbal, non-verbal, quantitative and cognitive reasoning

The most clear differences were observed considering quantitative and non-verbal reasoning, where mainly boys achieved higher results. Girls achieved higher results in verbal reasoning tests. It is worth paying attention to the fact, that analysing only low results in terms of all analysed skills, boys dominated as well; however the largest percentage of girls got average scores which somehow confirms the assumption about the lack of greater differences between genders terms of the overall level of the intelligence.

The research carrier out by Sylwia Bedyńska[3] concerns, among others, to what extent the influence of negative stereotypes, concerning intellectual skills, on the processes of reasoning. Practically each of us met with the stereotypes related to the gender. An example may be even jokes about blonde girls or police officers, in which the stupidity is an emphasised feature. S. Bedyńska in her research considers to what extent phenomenon of a stereotype threat, understood as the disclosure of information activating negative stereotype, helps (effect of the contrast) or disturbs (effect of the assimilation) in the correct conducting of a task for a well prepared person. Both men and women took part in the questionnaire, but only in the group of women, they were activating amongst the half examined, adding the negative stereotype to the manual information, they universally think that women worse than men perform tasks requiring logical thinking. The examined were presented a series of information about couples of persons connected by a certain relation (‘Paweł is taller than Grzegorz’, ‘Jan is taller than Paweł’, ‘Grzegorz is taller than Paweł’). Next they were given examined sentences and asked for its evaluation (e.g. ‘Jan is taller than Ryszard’). Presented information was or with repeating the presented earlier sentence, or moved from two sentences (required logical analysing). In the group of women a linear trend shows that the correctness of performing a task is decreasing along with the increase in the distance between elements was observed (that is with the increase in the problem of the task). The obtained trend is visible only amongst women who received the information in the instruction about being supposed to activate the negative gender stereotype. In the group of women who did not receive this information, the correctness of performing a task developed on the plateau is about 90%.

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Analysing the results amongst men, there were no linear trends or statistically essential differences between persons who received information activating the gender stereotype or did not receive it.         

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This way the research of S. Bedyńska confirmed that there was a problem in the group of women, who activated a negative gender stereotype, with making conclusions based on fragmentary information (with so-called generative thinking). However further analyses showed that the result perhaps is a consequence of the correctness of remembering the presented information. It turns out that this variable considerably weakens the connection between the applied manipulation in the group of women and the correctness of performing a task. This way, there is no certainty that activating the negative stereotype explicitly undermined performing a task by women.

To sum up, gender differences exist, however, are not as clear as most people assume. It is worth paying attention to the fact that we can never be completely sure about the presence of gender stereotype with reference to one, specific person. So the woman can be a good analyst or soldier which by her knowledge is not second to men, similarly we can meet a man who is a very good babysitter.

 

Iwona Pilichowska

    

Bibliography:

Bedyńska B., Wpływ negatywnych stereotypów o zdolnościach intelektualnych na procesy rozumowania, http://www.statsoft.pl/czytelnia/artykuly/Wplyw_negatywnych.pdf, [20.08.2011].

Wojciszke B. (2006), Człowiek wśród ludzi: zarys psychologii społecznej, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar.



[1] d=0,2 – small difference, d=0,5 –moderate  difference, d=0,8 – big difference.

[2] Light dots – girls, dark dots – boys.

[3] S. Bedyńska, Wpływ negatywnych stereotypów o zdolnościach intelektualnych na procesy rozumowania, http://www.statsoft.pl/czytelnia/artykuly/Wplyw_negatywnych.pdf, [20.08.2011].