The damaging impact of male stereotypes

by May 16, 2023

The damaging impact of male stereotypes

The damaging impact of male stereotypes traps men and women equally into specific and damaging boxes. 

 

The Australian Gender Equity Michael Ray in his ongoing battle around the damaging impact of male stereotypes reminded me of this quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

We talk a lot about the damaging impact of female stereotypes, and this is true they are. But to take Adiche’s quote further the story is indeed incomplete. Female stereotypes exist because of male stereotypes and expectations which have become the foundation of our wider and organisational cultures.

It starts at an early age

Babies are gendered from birth just by the colour of their “onesies. “

Gender stereotypes help children navigate their worlds and research shows that their attitudes towards gender are fully formed by the age of seven A study from Danish toy company Lego, suggests that boys conform to male stereotypes at an earlier age and are pressured by their parents to do so. We are taught from childhood that male activities are more important and so the process of boxing girls and boys into gender silos begins.

As small children girls are much less likely to worry about being judged or made fun of for playing with toys that are gendered.  Just 42% of girls, but 71% of boys say they worry about being made fun of if they play with a toy that is meant for the other sex/gender, a 29% difference.

In the same study parents reported that today they focus on encouraging girls into male spheres of play but don’t do the same for their sons who are miss on activities associated with girls due to gender norms and stereotypes. Parents and sons are “more worried about how it would be perceived if a boy were to play with a girl toy (because being feminine is seen as a negative in every nation surveyed)”

 

These expectations are then reflected in our workplaces.

Damaging Impact of male stereotypes

The damaging impact of male stereotypes traps men and women equally into specific boxes. When they push back they are penalised:

 

These are only some of the key traps:

  • Emotional suppression

Society expects men to be stoic and not show vulnerability. This lead to boys and men being afraid to show their emotions leading to chronic mental health issues manifested in high levels of male suicide.

  • Toxic masculinity

Michael Ray is not a fan of the term toxic masculinity and prefers to call in maladaptive behaviour. This concept reinforces the idea that men must be aggressive, dominant, and unemotional to be considered “real men.” This can lead to behaviour that is harmful to both men and women, such as aggression, violence, and sexual harassment. As men double down on these traits the pressure on women to assume their gender-expected roles increases.

Don’t let gender stereotypes affect your hiring processes. 3Plus can help you find the best talent with our Executive Search and Diversity Recruitment workshops.

  • Pressure to conform

Men who do not conform to traditional male stereotypes may face ridicule or ostracism from their peers. This can be particularly damaging for boys but extends into adult life. Organisations may discourage men from taking parenting leave or being actively involved in family life on an ongoing basis. Career success is measured by discretionary effort and 24/7 availability impossible for anyone with childcare responsibilities.

  • Channels career choice

Stereotyped assumptions define our worldviews and behaviours and contribute to limiting career choices, which underpins the gender pay gap.

 

Michael Ray tries to break down gender stereotypes for both men and women as a single parent to a daughter and how it changed his life. Listen to the podcast HERE

 

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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