Gender Socialization

Gender Socialization

Gender socialization is the process of teaching people how to behave as men or women.

Learning Objectives

Analyze how the process of gender socialization has an impact on the lifespan development of a person, specifically related to stereotypes between men and women

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Gender socialization begins even before a baby is born.
  • Gender is socialized through media messages, school instruction, family expectations, and experiences in the workplace.
  • The process of gender socialization continues as adolescents enter the workforce. Research has found that adolescents encounter stereotypes of gendered performance in their first jobs.

Key Terms

  • gender: The socio-cultural phenomenon of the division of people into various categories such as male and female, with each having associated roles, expectations, stereotypes, etc.

Sociologists and other social scientists generally attribute many of the behavioral differences between men and women to socialization. Socialization is the process of transferring norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors to future group members. In regards to gender socialization, the most common groups people join are the gender categories male and female. Even the categorical options of gender an individual may choose is socialized; social norms act against selecting a gender that is neither male or female. Thus, gender socialization is the process of educating and instructing potential men and women how to behave as members of that particular group.

Socialization Before Birth

Preparations for gender socialization begin even before the birth of the child. One of the first questions people ask of expectant parents is whether the baby will be a boy or girl. This is the beginning of a social categorization process that continues throughout life. Preparations for the birth of the child often take the expected sex into consideration, such as painting the infant’s room pink or blue.

Early Life Socialization

One illustration of early life gender socialization can be seen in preschool classrooms. Children in preschool classrooms where teachers were told to emphasize gender differences saw an increase in stereotyped views of what activities are appropriate for boys or girls, while children with teachers who did not emphasize gender showed no increase in stereotyped views. This clearly demonstrates the influence of socialization on the development of gender roles; subtle cues that surround us in our everyday lives strongly influence gender socialization.

Adolescent Socialization

The process of gender socialization continues as adolescents enter the workforce. Research has found that adolescents encounter stereotypes of gendered performance in the workforce in their first jobs. First jobs are significantly segregated by sex. Girls work fewer hours and earn less per hour than boys. Hourly wages are higher in job types dominated by boys while girls are more frequently assigned housework and childcare duties. The impact of these first experiences in the professional world will shape adolescents’ perspectives on how men and women behave differently in the workforce.

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Gender Socialization in Infants: Preparations for the birth of the child often take the expected sex into consideration, such as painting the infant’s room pink or blue.

Learning the Gender Gap

The gender pay gap, or the difference between male and female earnings, is primarily due to discriminatory social processes.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the impact the gener pay/wage gap can have on both men and, in particular, women, in the economic world

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • There is a debate as to what extent the gender pay gap is the result of gender differences, implicit discrimination due to lifestyle choices, or because of explicit discrimination.
  • The unadjusted wage gap refers to a measure of the wage gap that does not take into account differences in personal and workplace characteristics between men and women.
  • We can assume that the adjusted wage gap represents the gap due to implicit discrimination. In other words, the social forces that cause women to stay home with children more frequently than men or to be less aggressive, are responsible for this part of the wage gap.
  • The difference between the unadjusted and the adjusted wage gap is due to explicit discrimination or the fact that on average, a woman will make less than an identical man in the exact same occupation.
  • Studies have shown that the majority of the gender wage gap is due to implicit, not explicit, discrimination.

Key Terms

  • The gender pay gap: The gender pay gap is the difference between male and female earnings expressed as a percentage of male earnings, according to the OECD.
  • glass ceiling: An unwritten, uncodified barrier to further promotion or progression for a member of a specific demographic group.

The gender pay gap is the difference between male and female earnings expressed as a percentage of male earnings, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The European Commission defines it as the average difference between men and women’s hourly earnings. There is a debate as to what extent this is the result of gender differences, implicit discrimination due to lifestyle choices, or because of explicit discrimination. If it is a result of gender differences, then the pay gap is not a problem; men are simply better equipped to perform more valuable work than women. If it is a result of implicit discrimination due to lifestyle choices, then women’s lower earnings result from the fact that women typically take more time off when having children or choose to work fewer hours. If it is explicit discrimination, then the pay gap is a result of stereotypical beliefs, conscious or unconscious, from those who hire and set salaries.

Most who study the gender wage gap assume that it is not due to differences in ability between genders – while in general men may be better at physical labor, the pay gap persists in other employment sectors as well. This implies that the gender gap stems from social, rather than biological, origins.

In order to determine whether the gender gap is a result of implicit or explicit discrimination, we can look at the adjusted and unadjusted wage gap. The unadjusted wage gap refers to a measure of the wage gap that does not take into account differences in personal (e.g., age, education, the number of children, job tenure, occupation, and occupational crowding) and workplace (e.g., the economic sector and place of employment) characteristics between men and women. Parts of the raw pay gap can be attributed to the fact that women, for instance, tend to engage more often in part-time work and tend to work in lower paid industries. The remaining part of the raw wage gap that cannot be explained by variables that are thought to influence pay is then referred to as the adjusted gender pay gap and may be explicitly discriminatory.

The total wage gap in the United States is 20.4 percent. A study commissioned by the United States Department of Labor, prepared by Consad Research Corp, asserts that there are “observable differences in the attributes of men and women that account for most of the wage gap. Statistical analysis that includes those variables has produced results that collectively account for between 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap of 20.4 percent, and thereby leave an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent. ” Thus, only a relatively small part of the wage gap is due to explicit discrimination.

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Gender Pay Gap in the United States, 1980-2009: This graph depicts the female-to-male earnings ratio, median yearly earnings among full-time, year-round workers from 1980 to 2009.

We can assume that the remainder (the gap attributed to the measured variables) is the result of implicit discrimination, that is, social forces that pressure women into working part time, to stay home with their children, to be less aggressive in pursuing promotions or raises, etc. A 2010 report by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, for example, pointed out that “the major reasons for this gap are very often related to both horizontal and vertical segregation – or the fact that women tend to choose lower-paid professions, reach a ‘glass ceiling’ in their careers, or have their jobs valued less favourably. The origins of these factors could be judged as being discriminatory in themselves, that is, when they are rooted in gender stereotypes of male and female occupations. ”

Gender Pay Gap in Europe: This PSA by the European Union illustrates the gender pay gap in Europe.

Gender Messages in the Family

Gender role theory posits that boys and girls learn the appropriate behavior and attitudes from the family with which they grow up.

Learning Objectives

Justify how the family acts as the most important agent of gender socialization for children and adolescents

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Primary socialization – the socialization that occurs during childhood and depends mostly on a child’s family members – is typically the most long-lasting and influential phase of socialization. Therefore, the gender roles learned from family will endure.
  • The family is the most important agent of socialization because it serves as the center of the child’s life.
  • The division of labor between men and women contributes to the creation of gender roles, which in turn, lead to gender-specific social behavior.
  • In the adult years the demands of work and family overwhelm most peer group relations and the influence of peers seriously declines as an agent of socialization, only to return during the elderly years.
  • The division of labor creates gender roles, which in turn, lead to gendered social behavior.

Key Terms

  • primary socialization: The socialization that takes place early in life, as a child and adolescent.
  • Division of labor: A division of labour is the dividing and specializing of cooperative labour into specifically circumscribed tasks and roles.
  • gender role theory: The idea that boys and girls learn the behavior and attitudes about how to perform one’s biologically assigned gender.

Gender role theory posits that boys and girls learn the appropriate behavior and attitudes from the family and overall culture in which they grow up, and that non-physical gender differences are a product of socialization. Social role theory proposes that social structure is the underlying force behind gender differences, and that the division of labor between two sexes within a society motivates the differences in their respective behavior. Division of labor creates gender roles, which in turn, lead to gender-specific social behavior.

Family is the most important agent of socialization because it serves as the center of a child’s life. Socialization theory tells us that primary socialization – the process that occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values and actions expected of individuals within a particular culture – is the most important phase of social development, and lays the groundwork for all future socialization. Therefore, the family plays a pivotal role in the child’s development, influencing both the attitudes the child will adopt and the values the child will hold. Socialization can be intentional or unintentional; the family may not be conscious of the messages it transmits, but these messages nonetheless contribute to the child’s socialization. Children learn continuously from the environment that adults create, including gender norms.

For example, a child who grows up in a two-parent household with a mother who acts as a homemaker and a father who acts as the breadwinner may internalize these gender roles, regardless of whether or not the family is directly teaching them. Likewise, if parents buy dolls for their daughters and toy trucks for their sons, the children will learn to value different things.

Gender Messages from Peers

Peer groups can serve as a venue for teaching gender roles, especially if conventional gender social norms are strongly held.

Learning Objectives

Discuss how peer groups can have a major impact on the gender socialization of a person, particularly children and adolescents

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture.
  • Through gender-role socialization, group members learn about sex differences, and social and cultural expectations.
  • Early on, children begin to almost restrict themselves to same-gendered groups. Boys tend to participate in more active and forceful activities in larger groups, away from adults, while girls were more likely to play in small groups, near adults.
  • The stereotypes are less prominent when the groups are mixed-gendered, because the difference is not salient.
  • A girl who wishes to take karate class instead of dance lessons may be called a “tomboy,” facing difficulty gaining acceptance from both male and female peer groups.

Key Terms

  • stereotype: A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image of a group of people or things.
  • gender roles: Sets of social and behavioral norms that are generally considered appropriate for either a man or a woman in a social or interpersonal relationship.
  • Peer groups: Peer groups can serve as a venue for teaching members gender roles.

Gender role theory posits that boys and girls learn the appropriate behavior and attitudes from the family and overall culture in which they grow up, and so non-physical gender differences are a product of socialization. Social role theory proposes that the social structure is the underlying force for gender differences. Social role theory proposes that sex-differentiated behavior is motivated by the division of labor between two sexes within a society. Division of labor creates gender roles, which in turn lead to gendered social behavior.

Peer groups can serve as a venue for teaching members gender roles. Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, and which differ widely across cultures and historical periods.

Through gender-role socialization, group members learn about sex differences, and social and cultural expectations. Biological males are not always masculine and biological females are not always feminine. Both genders can contain different levels of masculinity and femininity. Peer groups can consist of all males, all females, or both males and females.

Peer groups can have great influence on each other’s gender role behavior depending on the amount of pressure applied. If a peer group strongly holds to a conventional gender social norm, members will behave in ways predicted by their gender roles, but if there is not a unanimous peer agreement, gender roles do not correlate with behavior. There is much research that has been done on how gender affects learning within student peer groups. The purpose of a large portion of this research has been to see how gender affects peer cooperative groups, how that affects the relationships that students have within the school setting, and how gender can then affect attainment and learning. One thing that is an influence on peer groups is student behavior.

Knowing early on that children begin to almost restrict themselves to same-gendered groups, it is interesting to see how those interactions within groups take place. Boys tend to participate in more active and forceful activities in larger groups, away from adults, while girls were more likely to play in small groups, near adults. These gender differences are also representative of many stereotypical gender roles within these same-gendered groups. The stereotypes are less prominent when the groups are mixed-gendered.

When children do not conform to the appropriate gender role, they may face negative sanctions such as being criticized or marginalized by their peers. Though many of these sanctions are informal, they can be quite severe. For example, a girl who wishes to take karate class instead of dance lessons may be called a “tomboy,” facing difficulty gaining acceptance from both male and female peer groups. Boys, especially, are subject to intense ridicule for gender nonconformity.

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Female Peer Groups: Teenage cliques exert influence upon their members to conform to group standards, including group mores about gender.

Gender Messages in Mass Media

In mass media, women tend to have less significant roles than men, and are often portrayed in stereotypical roles, such as wives or mothers.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the types of gender socialization people get from viewing various types of media

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Gender socialization occurs through four major agents: family, education, peer groups, and mass media.
  • Television commercials and other forms of advertising reinforce inequality and gender-based stereotypes.
  • Particularly concerning are instances when women are depicted in dehumanizing, violent, and oppressive ways, especially in music videos.
  • The mass media is able to deliver impersonal communications to a vast audience.

Key Terms

  • Gender socialization: The process of educating and instructing males and females as to the norms, behaviors, values, and beliefs of group membership as men or women.
  • impersonal communications: The mass media are the means for delivering impersonal communications directed to a vast audience, and include radio, advertising, television, and music.
  • television commercials: Television commercials and other forms of advertising also reinforce inequality and gender-based stereotypes.

Gender socialization occurs through four major agents: family, education, peer groups, and mass media. Because mass media has enormous effects on our attitude and behavior, notably in regards to aggression, it is an important contributor to the socialization process. This is particularly true with regards to gender. In television and movies, women tend to have less significant roles than men. They are often portrayed as wives or mothers, rather than as main characters. When women are given a lead role, they are often one of two extremes: either a wholesome, saint-like figure or a malevolent, hyper-sexual figure. This same inequality is similarly pervasive in children’s movies. Research indicates that among the 101 top-grossing, G-rated movies released between 1990 and 2005, three out of every four characters were male. Out of those movies, only seven films were even close to having a balanced cast of characters, with a ratio of less than 1.5 male characters per 1 female character.

Television commercials and other forms of advertising reinforce inequality and gender-based stereotypes. Women almost exclusively appear in ads that promote cooking, cleaning, or childcare-related products. In general, women are underrepresented in roles, or ads, that reference leadership, intelligence, or a balanced psyche. Particularly concerning are instances when women are depicted in dehumanizing, oppressive ways, especially in music videos. The music video for “Pimp,” a song by 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and G-Unit, demonstrates how harmful gender messages can be disseminated through mass media. In the video, women are objectified and portrayed as only existing to serve men. They wear little clothing and are walked around on leashes by men, as if they were dogs and not humans.

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Gender Messages in Mass Media: Traditional images of American gender roles reinforce the idea that women should be subordinate to men.

Gender Messages in Music: The music video for “PIMP,” a song by 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and G-Unit, demonstrates how gender messages are disseminated through mass media. In the video, women are objectified and portrayed as only existing to serve men, as evidenced by the fact that men walk women around on leashes in part of the video.