By Shahnaz Mahmud
Friday, May 28, 2010
A new online test taps visitors' attitudes towards sex roles. So far, male respondents express more traditional attitudes toward professional occupations but say they are more willing to divide the household duties evenly.
(WOMENSENEWS)--Men and women are both likely to take a gender-neutral attitude toward most job occupations, according to the preliminary results of an online test launched in February that will keep crunching the data on an open-ended basis.
Some jobs, however--such as carpenters and prison guards--were still considered male preserves, at least by male respondents.
"For the most part, men felt that both genders would be equally suited to most job positions we listed on the test," said Ilona Jerabek in a phone interview. Jerabek is president of PsychTests AIM, the Montreal-based psychological assessments company that developed the 126-question test that takes around 30 or 40 minutes to complete.
"Gender Roles: Are We Still Playing the Part?" provides a description of where people fall on the traditional-modern continuum in professional and personal life.
It seeks to assess attitudes, feelings and behaviors in situations where gender-role issues may arise. Depending on the results, a subject could come out finding herself described as a traditionalist, progressive or a progressive traditionalist--somewhere in between.
Nearly 200 men and more than 300 women--their ages range from under 17 to over 60--have responded so far. Most have been Caucasians from North America.
Surprisingly, men have so far been more willing than women to divide household duties with their partners and take on jobs beyond such traditionally male tasks as mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage.
Jerabek has a hypothesis and some advice to offer to women about that.
"While women feel that men should chip in, they still like to be in control of those tasks," she said. "What this frequently translates into is a situation such as this: The guy does the laundry and mixes blacks and colors or mixes underwear with jeans, and the woman gets upset because this is not how she would do it. The moral here is: If you want him to do things at home, don't chastise him for not doing it 'right.' If you have to correct him, do it with appreciation and pick your battles."
Jerabek said the survey often finds women having more modern attitudes than men about gender roles at work. Women wholeheartedly pursue traditionally-male positions, hire women for traditional male positions and turn to male colleagues for emotional support and encouragement at work, she said.
However, she said when it came to the occupations that men often considered male-only, a polling gender gap opened up.
When it came to carpenters, for instance, 41 percent of women versus 21 percent of men felt that both genders could do this job. For prison guards the same answer was given by 43 percent of women versus 26 percent of men.
Men are also more likely to endorse stereotypical traits of how males should behave at work, such as being power hungry, authoritative, decision-makers, competitive and more intimidating.
Nearly half of women (48 percent) felt that men were not necessarily more cut-throat in business than women and 49 percent completely disagreed that men should be the decision-makers in a company.
More women than men (55 percent versus 40 percent) considered women in the workplace intimidating. Do men necessarily make better managers? An answer gap also arose there, with 74 percent of women disagreeing, compared to 50 percent of men.
In personal relationships, Jerabek said many female respondents said they like it when men initiate, plan and pay for dates, all the while being gallant and courteous. Surveyed women also often tended to regard women as more emotionally expressive, nurturing, and romantic, and more comfortable being vulnerable in a relationship.
When it comes to first dates, 53 percent of the males surveyed believed that they should be the one to pay. Only 16 percent thought it should be split evenly.
They also believed very strongly in gallantry--which is probably a good thing, since the majority of women love it.
The survey found women more modern in their views of sexuality. The majority of male survey respondents were not as comfortable as women are with the idea of females being sexually assertive in the bedroom and initiating sex.
Both sexes agreed that men and women should make decisions together. Jerabek said men and women see each other as equally capable of managing finances.
Jerabek said the topic of changing attitudes toward changing gender roles is very popular in academic research.
"We realized that despite the popularity of this topic in research circles, there weren't many ways regular people could learn about their own views of gender roles. People can easily say, 'Of course I'm totally modern in my views,' but when they actually sit down and take our assessment and think about how they really feel, this perception can change."
Jerabek said the data so far are indicating that individual test takers have a spectrum of attitudes. "Some people had a modern attitude towards gender roles, but when it came close to home, like how to raise their children, some traditional views held strong," she said.
In my own case, however, the results provided no surprise.
I emerged from the test as a "progressive traditionalist." That is, a woman who accepts many, but not all, twists on modern gender roles.
Scoring a 53 overall, it appears that I am neither totally conservative nor completely modern in my views and behaviors. While I might be considered more unconventional in my thinking about the workplace, I apparently take a very traditional stance where romantic relationships are concerned. Yes, I like to be courted and gallantry is not dead in my world.
Jerabek said my test results fall in line with statistical averages the company has gathered so far.
"I think it's kind of a balance. Some women might wish for complete equality. But, then they are stunned if a man doesn't hold the door open for them. I (myself) am a feminist, but I still like these little gallantries," she said.
Jerabek emphasized that more women take "psychometric" assessments like this, so the findings may not be the last word on the male-female areas of agreement and disagreement on sex roles.
In general, men lean towards the technical and IQ tests, while women have a keen interest to dive into the relationship assessments, Jerabek said.
"Women are much more open, in terms of getting feedback from these assessments and acting upon them," she said.
Shahnaz Mahmud is a writer based in New York.