VANCOUVER — Is it a result of gender norms, or just the way we’re wired? A study suggests that men still place less value on care-oriented jobs such as teaching and nursing than women.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia hypothesize the finding stems from the way men internalize values when it comes to choosing a profession.
While women are still hugely underrepresented when it comes to careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, the gap is much greater for men when it comes men and nursing or early education. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 9 and 16 percent of engineers and 21 percent of computer programmers in the United States are women. On the flip side, only 10 percent of American nurses are men, and 4 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers.
The authors conducted experiments that tested how men and women viewed different occupations and certain values that would be associated with them. They recruited 979 undergraduate students total to participate in the different segments of the study.
“We found that men place less importance on more basic communal values, such as how important it is to help others, and that others are taken care of,” says lead author Katharina Block, a PhD student in social psychology at UBC, in a release. “They also tended to be less interested in very care-oriented careers, like nursing. One reason that men, on average, might not be interested in taking on these types of jobs is that they don’t really fit the kind of values men learn to pursue.”
To find the reasons behind this stubborn gender disparity, the researchers surveyed the men and women about their personal morals and values, their attitudes toward different care-oriented and STEM occupations, and the level of their support for private and public policies trying to increase eliminate the pay gap between care-oriented positions and STEM positions. Men in the surveys tended to display lower communal values than women, and tended to devalue care-oriented careers.
Similarly, the participants were asked to place dollar values on various occupations. Men, on average, valued STEM jobs as worth $24.24 more than HEED (health care, early education, domestic) professions. Women, on the other hand, rated them as worth $14.57 more. Men also were less likely to support salary increases for HEED jobs, but both men and women supported bridging the gender gap in STEM jobs more than HEED jobs.
“Our results suggest that we might want to think about how we as a society value healthcare, early education and domestic careers,” concludes Block. “Men don’t want to take on these careers if they feel like they’re not that important to society, so to encourage more men to enter into these careers, it could be helpful to emphasize the value that these careers have.”
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.