Studies clearly show that girls tend to be more studious and do better at school than boys. However, when they finish education, far fewer girls go into top jobs and high-status professions than boys. So, what’s happening? Why the gap? That’s whathas been trying to work out. A report in 2015 showed that there had been an improvement in gender inequality in the health, financial, political and education sectors. However, the improvement was only 4% over a 10-year period. At that rate, it would be 117 years before we could hope to achieve gender equality.
System Justification Theory
This theory identifies our tendency to accept differences in status between different groups, even if we belong to a low-status group. But why? Because of gender stereotypes, which still persist in our society. Most stereotypes are not necessarily conscious, but they still influence us. Women tend to be seen as more sociable, kind and caring than men. On the other hand, one of the most deeply embedded stereotypes of women is that they are less competent.
System justification theory encourages us to accept things as they are, or even defend them. If a person doesn’t meet stereotypical expectations (e.g. a woman who is uncaring or unsociable) she will be judged negatively more readily than if she were a man, and by women as much as men. Because men are seen as more competent, they more easily attain Top, high-status Jobs. Statistics confirm this male over-representation and give the impression of justifying it (“if the figures also show it, it’s because they must be more competent”).
The Persistence of Gender Stereotypes
In a study of around 1000 pupils, Delphine Martinot revealed that gender stereotypes exist from a very young age. The girls and boys questioned agreed on the results: if a girl does well it’s because she’s conformist, obedient and conscientious. If a boy does well at school, it’s because he’s confident and ambitious.
Another of our collective stereotypes is that girls tend to have less potential and aim for less scientific and rigorous subjects, whereas boys prefer fields of study that lead to more prestigious jobs.
Stereotypes in Recruitment
Gender stereotypes in recruitment are also difficult to eradicate. Because job interviews are based on feelings, there is a whole set of personality traits naturally assigned to individuals that can introduce bias into the choice of candidate.
This is where the assessment center offers a real advantage:during operational and professional exercises. Ultimately this produces a reliable diagnosis of a candidate’s skills and potential.
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