Polling data suggest gender stereotypes have significantly changed since 1940s

Women have come a long way in the United States over the last 70 years, to the point where they are now seen as being as competent as men, if not more so, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Challenging traditional claims that stereotypes of women and men are fixed or rigid, our study joins others in finding stereotypes to be flexible to changes in ," said Alice Eagly, Ph.D., of Northwestern University and lead author on the study. "As the roles of women and men have changed since the mid-20th century, so have beliefs about their attributes."

The research was published in American Psychologist, APA's flagship journal.

Eagly and her coauthors conducted a of 16 nationally representative public opinion polls involving more than 30,000 U.S. adults from 1946 to 2018. They looked at three types of traits—communion (i.e., compassion, sensitivity), agency (i.e., ambition, aggression), and competence (i.e., intelligence, creativity) - and whether participants thought each trait was truer of women or men or equally true of both.

Competence stereotypes changed dramatically over time. For example, in one 1946 poll, only 35% of those surveyed thought men and women were equally intelligent, and of those who believed there was a difference, more thought men were the more competent sex. In contrast, in one 2018 poll, 86% believed men and women were equally intelligent, 9% believed women were more intelligent and only 5% believed men were more intelligent.

Communal stereotypes viewing women as more compassionate and sensitive than men strengthened over time. In contrast, agency stereotypes viewing men as more ambitious and aggressive than women did not significantly change over time.

"These current stereotypes should favor women's employment because competence is, of course, a job requirement for virtually all positions. Also, jobs increasingly reward social skills, making women's greater communion an additional advantage," said Eagly. "On a less positive note, most leadership roles require more agency than communion. Therefore, the lesser agency ascribed to women than men is a disadvantage in relation to leadership positions."

Eagly theorized that the considerable change in competence beliefs derives, in part, from the changing roles of men and women. Women's has increased from 32% in 1950 to 57% in 2018, while men's participation has fallen from 82% to 69%. Women also now earn more bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees than do men, unlike decades ago.

"Our interpretation of these findings is that women's increasing labor force participation and education underlie the increase in their perceived competence, but that occupational segregation and the division of domestic roles underlie the findings for communion and agency," she said.

As women entered paid employment in , their jobs remained concentrated in occupations that reward or offer contribution to society. Women also spend approximately twice as much time on domestic work and child care as men on average, according to Eagly. In contrast, men are concentrated in and in occupations that require , competition, interaction with things, and analytical, mathematical and technical skills.

"Observation of these stark differences in the typical roles of women and men causes people to ascribe different traits to them, as shown in other research studies. Gender stereotypes thus reflect the social position of and men in society but change when this social position shifts," she said.


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More information: Gender Stereotypes Have Changed: A Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis of U.S. Public Opinion Polls From 1946 to 2018," American Psychologist, July 18, 2019. DOI: 10.1037/amp0000494
Journal information: American Psychologist

Citation: Polling data suggest gender stereotypes have significantly changed since 1940s (2019, July 18) retrieved 24 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-polling-stereotypes-significantly-1940s.html
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Jul 18, 2019
"Polling data suggest gender stereotypes have significantly changed since 1940s"... but the genders themselves remain the same. Biology.

Jul 18, 2019
Having lived through the period, I found a time of rapid change was when the birth control pill became widely available to women. I wonder why so dramatic a change in the lives of women and families wasn't mentioned.

Jul 19, 2019
Nothing has changed. Only perceptions and beliefs. Men and women are still different, both in good ways. Liberals are still trying to make them "equals". But they will never be so. Celebrate your differences.

Jul 19, 2019
Wednesday's help54 comment spammer, https://sciencex....MSadler, seems to have been nuked. This one, https://sciencex....taJDale/ , was created yesterday and has posted 6 comments, all spam. Everyone keep painting the targets by reporting them. Maybe they will get frustrated and give up. Maybe they don't care as long as they get their spams posted. They'll just keep creating new accounts. Don't know how you stop that. Maybe one post per day limit for the first week?

Go Moderators!

Jul 19, 2019
I shudder when I watch movies from the earlier part of the 20th century. Most leading males were so macho and the women so timid and needing the man's help for protection. Were people really like that??

Jul 21, 2019
People becoming less intelligent so they believe polls sporting unintelligent questions. Also, men have 40% less testosterone now than in the 1940s. It's no wonder they can be brow-beaten by feminists and minorities today.

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