Gender Stereotypes

Deborah L. Best

Imagine that you are head of a human relations department in a large company and your job is to hire the administrative/managerial employees for your company. For one particularly important position, you have two finalists who have similar educational backgrounds and other qualifications. To help in making your choice, you give the candidates a self-descriptive personality test to see how they might handle the job. Here are the results. Person A chose these items as self-descriptive: attractive, dependent, emotional, gentle, kind, talkative. Person B chose these items: active, ambitious, determined, inventive, self-confident, serious. Which person would you hire? Why? Is it easier to imagine one of these individuals as a man? Which one? As a woman? Which one? Is it easier to visualize Person A as a woman and Person B as a man? If so, your views demonstrate the influence of gender stereotypes—beliefs about how men and women differ in their psychological make-up.

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