Male gender bias deterring men in education: study

Wednesday, 11 January, 2023

Male gender bias deterring men in education: study

New research suggests that gender bias makes men less likely to seek out careers in early education and other female-dominated fields.

The study, which was published by the American Psychological Association, stated that while female gender bias in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) fields has received much public attention, male gender bias in HEED (health care, early education and domestic) careers has been largely ignored.

“It’s a detriment to society if we keep slotting people into gendered roles and stay the course on gender-segregated career paths, regardless of whether those jobs are traditionally associated with women or men,” said lead researcher Corinne Moss-Racusin, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Skidmore College.

“That’s a powerful way of reinforcing the traditional gender status quo.”

Men account for only 3% of preschool and kindergarten teachers and 13% of registered nurses in the US, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. In prior research, male nurses have reported higher levels of workplace bullying than female nurses. Male early-elementary teachers have reported higher rates of discrimination and are perceived as less likeable, less hireable and a greater safety threat to children than female teachers.

Bias against men in HEED fields has been documented in prior research, and the current study sought to gauge the impact of that bias.

In one experiment with 296 online participants from the US, one group read an article accurately describing research that found educators preferred a female elementary school teacher applicant over a male applicant with the same qualifications. Another group read an article that claimed there was gender equality in early elementary education, and there was a control group that didn’t read any article.

Men in the group that read about male gender bias anticipated more discrimination in early elementary education and felt less sense of belonging, less positive and less interest in pursuing a career in that field. Female participants weren’t affected and reported similar responses across the different groups.

An experiment with 275 students at Skidmore College had similar findings. The research was published online in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

Rooted in traditional views of motherhood, the stereotype that women are more caring and naturally suited for some care-oriented professions limits opportunities for men in those fields, Moss-Racusin said.

“There’s no evidence that men are biologically incapable of doing this work or that men and women are naturally oriented toward different careers,” she said.

“Both men and women are deterred by gender biases they may face in different industries, which is understandable.”

Men also may be deterred by the low pay commonly found in HEED fields, which may be related to discrimination against women and a devaluing of work associated with them, Moss-Racusin said.

More recruitment and mentoring of men in HEED fields could help reduce gender bias and lead more men to seek careers in those fields, she said.

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