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Gender stereotypes stubbornly unchanged over 30 years, U.S. study says

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Stereotypes about men and women in the United States are largely unchanged from 30 years ago, a new study shows, in findings that researchers said could be reflected in this year’s presidential election.

Presumptions about personality traits, occupations, behavior and physical characteristics remained consistent over three decades despite women making advances in education and the workplace, said authors of the study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal.

The study drew from data collected among some 190 adults in 1983 and 2014.

Women, for example, were seen more likely to tend house than were men, and men were more likely candidates for household repairs, it said.

Women were thought to be more aware of other people’s feelings while men were seen to feel superior to others, it said.

Engineering was perceived as a largely masculine occupation, and nursing was seen as a woman’s job, it said.

Such stereotypes are showing up in the U.S. presidential race, where former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders are competing for the Democratic Party’s nomination, and all the Republican hopefuls are men, the study’s authors said.

Clinton, if elected, would be the nation’s first female president.

“Her treatment in the press and by voters really exemplifies the negative effect of gender stereotyping,” co-author Elizabeth Haines told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

“When women act with power, we have a strong backlash reaction to them because they violate our expectation of what a woman should be like — nice, kind and accommodating,” said Haines, a professor of psychology at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

According to a March 9 Quinnipiac University poll, men were less likely to vote for Clinton than women by nearly 20 percentage points in next week’s Florida primary among likely Democratic voters.

Participants in the study were asked to rate the likelihood that a typical man or woman had a given set of characteristics, the authors said.

Only in terms of financial responsibilities did stereotypes change dramatically, it said. Women and men were seen in the more recent data as increasingly equal parties in personal finance decision-making, it said.