Is considered a psychologist as a female profession

09.06.2015 09:59

Gender-neutral language influences children's perception of professions

Dr. Anne Klostermann Press and public relations
German Society for Psychology (DGPs)

If professions are presented in a gender-sensitive language (mentioning the male and female form, for example "engineers" instead of just "engineers"), children judge typically male professions to be more accessible and are more likely to trust themselves to take them up The results come from psychologists at the Free University of Berlin: In two experiments, they read job titles to 591 primary school students in either gender-equitable or masculine language and had the children evaluate the jobs. The results of the study have now been published in the specialist journal “Social Psychology " released.

In many countries, girls still choose jobs from the so-called MINT field (i.e. mathematics, IT, natural sciences and technology) less often than boys. This may be because girls are less likely to be introduced to these topics in everyday life (for example, repairing bicycle lights themselves), but “stereotypes” about jobs also play an important role. MINT jobs are considered to be “typically male”, difficult to pursue, but at the same time they are very important and many - not just girls - do not have enough self-confidence to take up such jobs. “We wanted to investigate whether gender-equitable language can undermine the effect of the gender stereotype,” says Dries Vervecken, who carried out the study, “and whether we can also use forms of language that draw attention to women exercise these professions, influence the perception of 'typically male professions' and self-confidence in children. "

Two studies with primary school children

Together with his colleague Bettina Hannover, Dries Vervecken carried out two studies with 591 children aged six to twelve from German and Belgian school classes. Job titles were read out to the children: either gender equitable, i.e. male and female form, or only individually in the male plural form. There were a total of 16 professions, eight of which were typically male (proportion of women less than 30%, e.g. car mechanic) and five typically female (proportion of women greater than 70%, e.g. beautician), and the rest were neutral professions. For each occupation, the children used a questionnaire to estimate how much one earns in the respective occupation, how important it is, how difficult it is to learn and do it and whether they would trust themselves to take up this occupation.

Children trust themselves more

Children who were presented with gender-sensitive job titles were far more likely to have the confidence to take up a “typically male” profession than children who were only given the masculine plural form. The typically male professions were judged to be easier to learn and less difficult according to the gender-equitable designation than according to the purely masculine designation. One explanation could be that children have already learned in elementary school to associate male tasks with higher levels of difficulty. "Our results show that gender-equitable language increases children's confidence that they can be successful in traditionally male professions," says Bettina Hannover, psychologist and professor for school and teaching research at the Free University of Berlin. "With the systematic use of such forms of language - for example by teachers and trainers - a contribution can be made to motivating more young people for a career in these professions."

Further educational work is necessary

However, the analyzes also show that when using gender-sensitive language, the professions were viewed as less important and that the pay in “typically male” professions was estimated to be lower than when the purely male job title was mentioned. "So the study conveys an encouraging and a less encouraging message," adds the President of the German Society for Psychology, Andrea Abele-Brehm. “It is encouraging that gender-equitable job titles can increase the self-confidence to take on the relevant professions. What is less nice is that gender-equitable job titles have a negative impact on the assessment of the job, i.e. its importance or the level of the salary. "

You can find the original study here:
Vervecken, D., & Hannover, B. (2015). Yes I can! Effects of gender fair job descriptions on children’s perceptions of job status, job difficulty, and vocational self-efficacy. Social Psychology, 46, 76-92.

Additional Information:
Dr. Dries Vervecken
Karel de Grote University College
Brusselstraat 45
2018 Antwerp
Email: [email protected]

Prof. Dr. Bettina Hanover
Free University of Berlin
Department of Education and Psychology
Habelschwerdter Allee 45
14195 Berlin
Tel: 030 838 5 69 50
Email: bettina[email protected]

DGPs press office:
Dr. Anne Klostermann
Tel .: 030 28047718
Email: [email protected]

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Features of this press release:
Pedagogy / Education, Psychology
research results