Certain occupations are often stereotyped as feminine (e.g., elementary school teacher) while others are stereotyped as masculine (e.g., engineer) (White, Kruczek, Brown, & White, 1989; White & White, 2006). This study proposed using multiple methods to assess stereotypical judgments about the masculinity and femininity of five occupations: engineer, law enforcement officer, accountant, fashion designer, and elementary school teacher. Implicit, indirect, and explicit assessments were used to measure gender-based stereotypes of occupations to examine similarities or differences between the different methods. Implicit assessments involve measuring automatic evaluations to stimuli, while indirect assessments involve gender-ratings of attributes associated with occupations. Both implicit and indirect measurements leave participants relatively unaware of what is being measured. On the other hand, explicit assessments (e.g., surveys) make the nature of the study known because people are explicitly asked questions pertaining to the variables of interest.
The current study constructively replicated and improved upon White and White’s (2006) study of implicit and explicit occupational gender stereotypes by accounting for several limitations of White and White’s study. White and White found engineering to be characterized as a masculine occupation, elementary school teacher was characterized as a feminine occupation, and accountant was characterized as a gender neutral occupation, regardless of whether the occupations were measured implicitly or explicitly. Their study was limited by the use of college students as the sample, as well as their limited range of occupations. The current study improved upon White and White’s study by using a sample of working adults, and by analyzing two additional occupations: law enforcement officer and fashion designer.
Gender-based occupational stereotypes were examined using the Implicit Association Test (IAT), an indirect measure, as well as bi-polar and uni-polar explicit scales. The IAT implicitly measured stereotypes that people may not express on explicit self-report measures. Two interventions for reducing stereotypes were also examined in an experimental design. Participants were either shown a gender counter-stereotypical picture or given instructions to imagine their own image of a “strong woman.” The interventions were intended to reduce gender-based stereotypes of occupations by introducing relevant counter-stereotypic information. However, the interventions were not found to be effective.
Two factors were examined as moderators of the impact of the interventions on reducing gender-based stereotypes of occupations. First, a person’s theory about the fixedness or malleability of traits is thought to affect stereotypical judgments. Participants completed the Implicit Person Theory Measure to assess whether the participants perceived traits as fixed (entity theory) or malleable (incremental theory). Participants’ theories of traits were hypothesized to moderate the effects of the interventions. In particular, persons who adopt an entity theory were predicted to be less influenced by counter-stereotypic information (e.g., a counter-stereotypic picture or the use of counter-stereotypic mental imagery) aimed at reducing stereotypes. On the other hand, persons who adopt an incremental theory were predicted to be more influenced by interventions aimed at reducing stereotypes. Lay theory was not found to moderate the impact of interventions on stereotype reduction, possibly a result of the interventions themselves.
Second, the current study examined respondents’ sex role as a factor that potentially moderates the impact the interventions have on reducing stereotypes. The extent to which people describe themselves in terms of masculine characteristics (e.g., assertive, aggressive, independent) or feminine characteristics (e.g., gentle, compassionate, sensitive to the needs of others) may influence interventions aimed at reducing stereotypes. For example, people adopting a masculine sex role may be more likely to accept stereotypes that certain occupations are better suited for men, while people adopting a feminine sex role may be more likely to accept stereotypes that certain occupations are better suited for women. The Bem Sex Role Inventory (Bem, 1974) was used to assess gender role perceptions. Sex role was not found to be a moderator of the impact of interventions aimed at reducing stereotypes.
Finally, the different implicit, indirect, and explicit measures were examined and compared to one another. A variance index was created for each of the four scales to generate single scale scores that could be compared to one another and the IAT. Results indicate the implicit and explicit measures may be measuring different constructs and highlight the important of using multiple methods to accurately capture complex information such as gender-based stereotypes about occupations.