Men are less likely to pursue careers in early childhood education and some other fields traditionally associated with women because of male gender bias in those fields, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
Bias against males in health, early education and Indigenous (HEED) fields has been documented in previous research, and the current study sought to measure the impact of this bias.
In an experiment with 296 online participants from the United States, one group read an article that correctly described research that found teachers preferred a female elementary school teacher applicant over a male applicant with the same qualifications. Another group read an article that argued for equality in elementary school, and there was a control group that read no article.
Men in the group who read about male gender bias anticipated more discrimination in early elementary education and felt less belonging, less positive, and less interested in pursuing a career in that field. Female participants were not affected and reported similar responses in the different groups.
An experiment with 275 students at Skidmore College had similar results. The research was published online in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.
While female gender bias in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields has received much public attention, male gender bias in HEED careers has been largely ignored, even though it also has negative effects, says lead researcher Corinne Moss-Racusin , PhD. , an associate professor of psychology at Skidmore College.
“It is a disservice to society if we continue to place people in gender roles and stay the course on gender-segregated career paths, regardless of whether those jobs are traditionally associated with women or men,” she said. “It’s a powerful way to reinforce the traditional gender status quo.”
Men account for only 3% of preschool and kindergarten teachers and 13% of registered nurses in the United States, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. In previous research, male nurses have reported higher levels of workplace bullying than female nurses. Male preschool teachers have reported higher rates of discrimination and are perceived as less likable, less employable and a greater safety threat to children than female teachers.
Rooted in traditional views of motherhood, the stereotype that women are more caring and naturally suited to certain care-oriented occupations limits opportunities for men in those fields, Moss-Racusin said.
“There is no evidence that men are biologically incapable of doing this work or that men and women are naturally oriented towards different careers,” she said. “Both men and women are put off by the gender bias they may encounter in various industries, which is understandable.”
Men may also be deterred by the low pay typically found in HEED fields, which may be related to discrimination against women and a devaluation of the work associated with them, Moss-Racusin said.
More recruitment and mentoring of men in HEED fields could help reduce gender bias and lead to more men seeking careers in these fields, she said.
Materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note! Content can be edited for style and length.