Women’s Day: fighting against gender stereotypes

Today, March 8 is International Women’s Day. Throughout the day there are events, demonstrations and claims that demand the inclusion of women in all aspects of society and the denunciation of erroneous stereotypes that have been created and rooted. From Top Doctors we join the cause, and for this we have the collaboration of our psychologist Dr. Sandra Farrera and her collaborators Silvia Di Falco and Ariadna Jutglar, who talk about how gender stereotypes have affected the image of women and their full development as a person.

How do stereotypes affect gender equality?

Given the historical moment, it is important to talk about the role of gender stereotypes and beliefs described according to the Pygmalion effect, and the relevance that ideas have on our behavior and expectations that often end up becoming reality.

Without realizing it and because of the education we have received, we tend to assume that gender stereotypes are often true. We give as an example the following: “women are more sensitive; to feel fulfilled women have to be mothers; women do not have the right kind of intelligence to be professionals with high positions such as heads of companies, engineers, scientists…” but that is not so; the stereotypes that have been created can be as true as false. Moreover, stereotypes lead us to generalize and thus we can fall into mistakes again. All this is pure fallacy.

Erroneous beliefs and gender stereotypes may imply that society expects certain behaviors from women and that they themselves act unconsciously, accepting such misconceptions. All of this puts women under enormous social pressure, which can modify their behavior. Authors such as Ajzen (1991) have shown that social pressures and skills modify our behavior.

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Since we cannot deny the influence of such stereotypes assumed by society, it could be reflected that many women do not choose technical careers, which are culturally labeled as masculine.

Logic VS. emotions

Men and women are different but complement each other. There are clear psychological differences between the two: women are more people-oriented and establish interpersonal relationships more easily. She is predominantly verbal and deals with problems by talking. In addition, he is motivated with a high degree of intuition and is more passionate about the tasks he undertakes. Likewise, he projects his emotions and his own identity in the work he carries out, being interested in human and personal details with great emotional memory.

Man is oriented towards more practical matters, towards tasks and obligations rather than towards people. He deals with problems by taking action. In addition, his intuition decreases to give way to logic. He performs his tasks intensely and objectively, keeping his identity apart from work. It is more interested in facts and data than in emotions.

On the other hand, women’s brains are better structured for emotional empathy (an essential condition for leadership), while men’s brains are more efficient in terms of rational and systemic thinking.

Just because we are different men and women does not mean that we do not have the same opportunities in all areas of life.

What is the incidence of female university students?

Specialists say that the educational performance of women is higher than that of men throughout formal education and that is why, at present, there is an over-representation of women in Spanish university education.

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The data indicate that the involvement of women in the university environment has increased in recent years, and the number of men and women studying at universities has become equal.

Even so, in Spain, the existence of inequality in terms of the choice of university careers continues to be a reality, with a much lower percentage of women currently studying in the field of science, especially in mathematics, computer science, technology and engineering (Científicas en Cifras, 2017).

According to Dr. Fanjul, greater visibility should be given through the media about the work exercised by women scientists and thus be able to set an example to the new generations of women entering universities today. The author stresses that it is now time to leave behind gender stereotypes, contaminated and rigid social beliefs and expectations of yesteryear and lead to a current social thinking where in the scientific world both genders working as a team achieve a higher and excellent performance as we are currently seeing in Spanish universities.

There are undeniable differences between men and women, we are not equal, but we can be equal. According to Morin et al. (2013) contact and direct experience can modify the erroneous stereotypes that have been created and rooted in our society. We hope this is the case and so we will all fight to make it happen.