Gender Bias

This semester I am taking an Intro to Anthropology course with Dr. Marken. In our last class we were discussing the idea of “Man the Hunter” vs “Woman the Gatherer”. In most societies it was common for women to gather food and men to go out on hunts.

However, we are learning that the importance of hunting has been given too much credit. The truth of the matter was, and is in some modern foraging societies, that the food gathered, usually by the women, makes up 60% of the group’s diet. The idea that what the man brought home was the most valuable food source was an image used to give men a more dominant position in our Western culture.

This downplay of the importance of women and their ability to contribute paints a picture of a submissive sex that needs to be taken care of. This negative image is seen by most as gender bias.

“…a tendency to think one way or another… based on gender, prior to knowing the person,” this is how Dr. Chavez, a psych professor at Bloomsburg University, described gender bias. However, he went on to say that while it sounds negative gender bias is not always a bad thing. It can range from favorable to useful to unfavorable.

The reason we have gender bias is the same reason we have any bias, so our brains can make quick decisions on how to handle a situation. We group people into categories for example race, age, and gender when we are meeting a stranger.

One of the biggest misconceptions I found when researching for this article was the idea that gender bias only truly affects women, however, men are adversely affected by it as well. In academic research, minorities are usually the focus and according Dr. Chavez, researchers tend to put more emphasis on “the squeaky wheel”. This is why more people are aware of discrimination against women than of men.

In an attempt to avoid teaching their children gender bias some parents have been pioneering raising their kids genderless. It is important to note that raising a child genderless does not mean only letting them play with gender neutral toys and dressing them in only green, and yellow.

It means allowing the children to pick the toys they are interested in and not telling them that those toys are traditionally played with by males or females. The idea is that they are a child and these are child play-things. It’s letting little boys romp around in tutus and not telling them that they are male and that is a female thing.

In families and environments where raising children genderless is not practiced young girls are typically praised for rebelling against gender stereotypes boys are still seen as lacking in masculinity. In elementary schools teachers tend to favor girls and boys are pushed to the side. Girls tend to get higher grades on tests but whether that was due to teachers discriminating boys or if the girls were inherently better at taking tests I could not tell.

Moving onto college, most campuses claim that their student population is 60% female. They also said that their female applicants were oftentimes more qualified than their male counterparts. Yearly women have been earning around 170,000 more bachelor degrees than men and are the majority in business, medical, and law schools. Lesley Stahl writes about this in her piece titled The Gender Gap: Boys lagging, girls move ahead.

So if women are doing so much better in schools than men why are we still lacking women in STEM, and leadership roles? The answer is hard to pin down and there are multiple hypotheses. Some of the more prominent ones described to me by Dr. Chavez were the Greater Male Variability Hypothesis, people already in leadership positions displaying gender bias and picking applicants of the same sex, and men being more forceful for a position than women.

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