Social psychological barriers to a gender balanced labor market : The role of gender identity threats, friendship priorities, and perceived discrimination

Sammanfattning: Gender remains a key predictor of vocational choice. The present thesis aimed to investigate three social psychological barriers to nontraditional career choice. Study Ӏ showed that threats to gender identity may lead to more gender-typical occupational preferences among adolescents. The results suggested a unique effect of gender identity threat, as a control threat did not have the same effect. Moreover, individual differences in gender identity concerns predicted gender-typed preferences. Study ӀӀ proposed an effect of gender-typical educational choice as a consequence of social needs. Because people tend to have predominantly same-gender friends, those who adjust their choice of education to be with their friends are likely to acquire a more gender-typical education and, consequently, occupation. The findings suggest that adolescents are more likely to adjust their educational choice in line with same-gender friends. Furthermore, perceived education compromise in line with friends was related to having selected a more gender typical field of study. Study ӀӀӀ revealed that people’s perceptions of gender discrimination in hiring are guided by discrimination prototypes of the typical discrimination victim, rather than same-gender bias. Both men and women tend to interpret an ambiguous outcome on the labor market as discrimination if the applicant is female. Furthermore, observing a woman being declined job interviews in male-typed occupations led to work-seeking discouragement, and this effect was mediated by attributions to discrimination. Discrimination attributions in prototypical cases were found to be exaggerated compared to the prevalence of actual gender discrimination in hiring. To conclude, the present thesis suggests that gender identity threat, friendship priorities, and perceived discrimination may prevent individuals from exploring their full range of career opportunities. First, gender identity threat may affect adolescents so that they do not even form aspirations for gender atypical occupations. Second, even if there is some interest in nontraditional occupations, the need to preserve close relationships will push people away from domains where they have no friends (usually domains where their gender is in minority). Finally, when young men and women are about to enter the labor market, exaggerated perceptions of the prevalence of discrimination can become an obstacle to their motivation to pursue certain careers.