Gender stereotype is a deliberate onslaught on gender equality. It refers to generalizations about gender differences, attributes and roles that an individual should perform in a society on the basis of their gender orientation. Cook and Cusack (2010) state “gender stereotypes encompass cultural construction of men and women due to their physical, biological, sexual and social functions” (p. 20). These stereotypes may be positive or negative, and they do not always portray the right information about others. When people engage in gender stereotyping and make assumptions about certain phenomenon and behaviors without any factual evidence, they are unfair to the affected individuals. Despite their knowledge on the dangers of gender stereotyping, people make generalizations regularly.
Traditional Gender Stereotypes
Since time immemorial, women have been the main victims of stereotyping. The society expects them to get married, bear and tend children. The notion of feminism in a society expects them to exhibit characters traits such as selflessness, love, care, compassion and sympathy (Page & Jha. 2009). At the same time, they expect her to groom well regardless of the duties she has to attend. Wertenbruch (2011) states “gender stereotypes and roles are present in people’s minds, and they apply in daily life” (p. 3). Conversely, the society’s male stereotypic role is to act as the provider in terms of finance. They ought to be independent, courageous, assertive, competitive, and always initiate sex. These stereotypes may lead to poor professional growth and hinder one’s expression and creativity. Phillips (2010) adds “culture sweeps away any innovative and intrinsic relations between men and women” (p. 120).
Gender Stereotypes and Science
Scientific findings report that children acquire gender stereotypes from adults especially parents and close relatives. Media, parents, teachers, religious leaders, and peer are the agents of social and gender stereotypes. Androgyny is an approach that examines conventional gender stereotypes and roles through blending both masculine and feminine attributes that individual exhibits. An androgynous individual does not fit well in either male or female gender roles. Parents, guardians, teachers and other social agents may teach children to embrace androgyny and gender biases.
There is no relationship between gender and the ability to perform some activities. Gender orientation does not deter one from excelling in some disciplines. Women can fit in ‘male’ professions such as engineering and technology. However, there are instances where biology defines the gender roles of men and women. One such case is reproduction. It is a fact that men’s biology cannot allow them to produce offspring, but women can.
Gender Roles and Context
Gender roles refer to the behavioral and social norms that the society considers fit for either men or women in their interpersonal and social relationships. However, the opinion differs depending on whether an individual’s personality is due to physiological or cultural factors. The roles differ due to historical and cultural contexts because many express only two genders while others express more. Androgyny in many cases serves as the third gender. Gender expression is the external manifestation of an individual’s gender identity through feminine, masculine, variance or neutral behavior in terms of clothing and body characteristics.
Response to Gender Stereotypes
Occupation Your Responses Your Partner’s Responses
- Doctor male male
- Lawyer male male
- School teacher female female
- Taxi driver male male
- Dancer female female
- Baby sitter female female
- Chef male female
- Pilot male male
- Mechanic male male
- Architect male male
- Designer female female
- Make-up artist female female
- System engineer male male
The responses have a close pattern because many answers are similar apart but they have an insignificant variation. The responses depict people’s opinions regarding professionalism and gender. Many jobs have some traditional attachment to feminine and masculine traits in that the responses declared a clear contrast on how the society brands them. Cultural backgrounds affect people’s perceptions because every culture has beliefs and practices regarding gender roles and responsibilities. The cultural dictates influence people’s decisions when it comes to choosing and venturing into certain professions.
There are behavioral differences that exist between female and male occupational realms. Career stereotyping makes it difficult for one to understand the forces that determine an individual’s choice of a profession due to stereotyping. The stereotypes’ inherent part is the career’s suitability to either a man or woman. The discrepancy creates a separation between the females who profess to prestigious careers that involve high income and leadership roles and men who hold such positions.
Gender stereotypes under-represent women in science and technology fields due to gender barriers that restrict them from accessing these fields. This is purely gender-determined and not because their skills fail to match the requirements for these professions. However, dramatic differences exist where both women and men excel regardless of the activities’ gender orientation. Sometimes, the social and economic factors affect women’s career choices because their parents and guardians pay more attention to male than female children. Social duties may also overwhelm women and curtail their professional excellence. Many of them serve multiple roles as mothers, spouses and breadwinners.
Cultural stereotypes push women away from some professions because the society may reject them and they may not fit in the social system. In developing nations, the society does not even allow women to access basic education leave alone professional training. The only education they receive is a simple family care, children tending and general motherhood. The society declares those who break loose from the cultural expectations as social misfits.
Other societies have lists of professions that women may venture into and a separate list for men’s provisions. They brand careers such as hairdressing, nursing, primary school teaching, and cooking as women’s professions. Activities such as architecture, engineering, medicine, information technology and construction are exclusive professions for men.
Gender Stereotypes at Workplace
It is sad that gender stereotypes still exist in the workplace. Many professional women suffer discrimination simply because of their gender. It is harmful in that it influences an individual to mistreat others on the basis of wrong pre-conceived ideas. Scholarly research shows that many stereotypic individuals do not understand how the practice influences their thinking and behavior.
Some people often infer conscious and unconscious presumptions about other individuals on the basis of gender, religion, race, age and sexual orientation. Gender discrimination affects workplace relations between the two parties because the discriminated party feels unwanted and often exhibits low motivation and enthusiasm towards their duties. Some of the problems that women undergo as a result of workplace gender stereotyping include sexual harassment, disparity in payment for equal work and lack of promotions. Roscigno (2007) adds “notable is the fact that most incidents of sexual harassment begin almost immediately when a woman enters the workplace” (79). Many stereotypic employers feel that women do not need equal pay because they have husbands who are the family’s breadwinners.
Men also face discrimination to a small extent for failing to maintain masculinity as per the society’s dictates. Homosexual men in particular have to cope with stereotypes for their sexual orientation. The society expects a man to engage in a sexual relationship with a woman and not the opposite. Therefore, they often face rejection and ill connotation from members of the society.
Gender stereotypes are an ill practice that discriminates individuals and curtails their maximum potential. Therefore, the society’s definition of gender is the precursor to poor interpersonal development and relationship among men and women. The case is worse in intact cultures that believe in their practices and follow them accordingly.
Women face the worst form discrimination in the society, particularly at their workplaces. They have to stomach issues such as underpayment and harassment. In addition, others lack the social support that they need to prosper. However, the modern liberalization of education and intellectual empowerment continues to reverse the order of things. However, the revolution may take time because many members of society do not accept the practice fully
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Page, E, & Jha, J. (2009). Exploring the Bias: Gender and Stereotyping in Secondary Schools.
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Phillips, A. (2010). Gender and Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Roscigno, V. J. (2007). The Face of Discrimination: How Race and Gender Impact Work and
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Wertenbruch, A. (2011). Gender Roles and Stereotypes in Dorothy Allison’s “Bastard Out of
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