Topic 5 Module 6: Gender Stereotypes and Bias

In Module 6, you will find information on the following areas:

  • Gender-related Stereotypes

  • Gender-related Biases

  • Microaggressions

This Module aims to:

  • Provide an understanding of gender-related stereotypes, biases and microaggressions

  • Develop the ability to spot gender discrimination

  • Provide information on how to overcome incidents relating to stereotyping and bias

  • Give examples and case studies to support learning and understanding

  • Etymology: the word “stereotype” comes from the union of two Greek terms: stereos- (rigid) and typos- (impression).

Stereotype = a rigid and hyper-generalised belief concerning a particular group or class of people

  • Stereotypes are a way in which we simplify our social world. They reduce the amount of processing (i.e. thinking) we have to do when we meet a new person.

  • Stereotypes, in fact, are formed for a very specific reason: to help human beings orient themselves in a world full of complexity and nuances. If each of us were forced to analyse every aspect of our day, our daily life would become a very tiring, if not impossible, task. This explains why this cognitive process has evolved as it allows simplification.

What is a bias?

  • It’s a subjective way of thinking that tells only one side of a story, sometimes leading to inaccurate information or a false impression.

A bias might be:

  • Intentional or unintentional,

  • Hard to identify in ourselves because it is unconscious, we do not recognise it when we see it.

Is it always bad?

  • Not always, most of our judgments depend on elements that are frugal and ones that ignore part of the information. This ignorance can actually be helpful, especially when one needs to make immediate judgments in the face of an abundance of data.

When are biases wrong?

  • When they are based on negative stereotypes, attitudes and prejudices. For example, in regard to gender, ethnicity, cultural background and any attitudes and prejudices that undermine the representative features of a group.

Specific gender implicit biases affect many dimensions of the male/female distinctions:

  • 1.Psychological features

  • 2.Social role features

  • 3.Physical features

Examples of these specific gender implicity biases can be found described in Module 6.

  • There are three types of microaggressions that can happen automatically or without the person being aware of the origins and consequences of their prejudice.

  1. Microassault -Purposeful discriminatory comments intended to demean.

  2. Microinsult – Rude or insensitive comments that a group may hear frequently.

  3. Microinvalidation -Comments that negate or nullify people of a group’s experiences of prejudice or discrimination.

  • More information on each of these microaggressions in Module 6.

  • There can be a detrimental impact of gender microaggressions on those who experience it:

  • Negative impact on the standard of living

  • Negative impact on physical health

  • Negative impact on psychological health

  • Overcoming gender microaggressions is very important and includes:

  • Individual intervention

  • Organisational intervention

  • Societal / cultural intervention

  • Types of Gender microaggressions

  • Sexual objectification

  • Second-class citizenship

  • Use of sexist language

  • Assumption of inferiority

  • Restrictive gender roles

  • Denial of the reality of sexism

  • Denial of individual sexism

  • Invisibility

  • Sexist humor/jokes

  • Environmental invalidations: macro level aggressions that happen on systemic and environmental level (unequal pay; glass ceiling; media images)

Photo by Brett Sayles  from Pexels

Imagine these scenarios

  • You are a member of a faculty search committee hiring an assistant professor in biology. The committee is just starting a face-to-face interview with a candidate named Maria Vasquez. One of your colleagues makes comments about her appearance calling her ”beautiful” on a frequent basis. He also asks her to “smile” if she does not have a smile on her face. She finds this very uncomfortable and nervously laughs.

  • A search committee hiring a department chair in environmental science is meeting to discuss the final list of candidates, which includes two men and one women. During the discussion, a male committee member says, “I think we should hire one of the men. I won’t work for a woman.”

  • A man named Alex is a candidate for a tenure-track job in chemistry. During his on-campus interview, the chairperson (a woman) of the search committee is giving him a tour. As they walk through the department labs, Alex makes a point to let the chairperson know that because he is a man, he feels he could make a great candidate for some of the top positions of the committee due to his determination, strength and assertiveness. The chairperson does not appreciate that he thinks this is a characteristic of a man, rather than a characteristic that all persons can possess.

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