From Gender Roles to Career Goals

by | Jun 28, 2017

From Birth to Boss: How gender roles affect our job choices

Raising children to be gender neutral has been a hot topic lately. Can gender roles that are instilled from childhood really be that bad? Here's how they could be affecting our career goals.

gender roles

We know that women are paid less for doing the same job as men, but the lesser discussed issue concerns sex segregation in different occupational roles. The unequal distribution of occupations between men and women is the real cause for a majority of the gender wage gap (Correll). It is often assumed that men and women make career decisions on a voluntary basis that fit the needs of the individual, but early assumptions about gender are directly related to our perceived ability to succeed in a field of work.

Read: Benevolent Sexism and Other Things I’m Cranky About

Bottle to Boardroom

The socialization process where we learn the gendered characteristics associated with sex begins at birth, where our blankets are color-coded depending on our designated sex. "Gender socialization occurs through four major agents: family, education, peer groups, and mass media" (Boundless). Through these forms, gender roles become normalized, especially with increased exposure to these and secondary agents, like work and religion. Studies show that by age 2-3 children are aware of gender roles, and  by age 5-6 children have normalized gender roles as a part of culture. Through mediums like toys, clothing, parental roles, and parental careers, findings show that children learn, "being male is more associated with opportunity and freedom while being female with constraint" (Conti).

Read: You Start To Negotiate Whilst In Diapers. So Let’s Close the Friggin’ Gap.

The Gender Gap

The effect of sex segregation is apparent in the lack of women seen in "masculine" job positions, such as law enforcement, military, politics, science, math, and engineering. This is seen even in high school, where men are more likely to be enrolled in upper-level math and science courses, despite the fact that men and women show little to no difference in mathematical aptitude (Correll). These male-dominated careers are often more financially rewarding than "feminine" job fields like childcare, healthcare, social work, and education. It is important to note that discrimination, sexism, and other outside forces affect the sex segregation that persists in our workforce, but the autonomy of our decision-making becomes less clear when breaking down the normalization of gender-roles that have persisted since birth. Although we cannot always control the agents of socialization that influence our perception of gender, we can question the normalization of gender roles for us and generations to follow.

Simple tips like those in this article are a great way to teach ourselves how to avoid gender stereotyping:

Does your company need to deal with gender bias?  Contact 3Plus now!


Originally posted by Caroline Kersten in Pulse LinkedIn

Caroline Kersten Contributor
Caroline Kersten is a founding partner of Leverage HR, where they specialize in transitioning talented women to the top and help organizations build diverse leadership teams.
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