A lot of research has been done on women’s rights over the past 70 years. Most recently, a new study published in American Psychologist has done some detailed work in this area, and their conclusion is as follows: women are currently considered just as competent as men, if not more.
“Challenging the traditional claims that stereotypes of women and men are fixed or rigid, our study joins others to show that stereotypes are flexible to changes in social roles,”notes Alice Eagly, lead author of the study. “As the roles of women and men have changed since the mid-20th century, so have beliefs about their attributes.”
The team of researchers analyzed 16 public polls where more than thirty thousand adults participated between 1946 and 2018. The three traits studied were compassion, ambition and competence. Participants were asked to rate which traits were more common in men or women, or if they were equally true for both.
Interestingly – but perhaps not surprisingly – stereotypes and the results of polls changed a lot over time. In 1946, only 1 in 3 people thought women were as intelligent as men, whereas in 2018 86% thought men and women were equally intelligent. Also, more recently, more and more people have reported as believing women to be more compassionate and sensitive.
“These current stereotypes should favor the employment of women because competition is, of course, a job requirement for virtually all jobs. In addition, jobs increasingly reward social skills, which makes the greater communion of women an additional advantage,” Eagly adds. “On a less positive note, most leadership roles require more ambition than communion. Therefore, the smaller ambition attributed to women is a disadvantage in relation to leadership positions.”
The researchers noted that while public sentiment has changed, it is still the case that men are most common in leadership roles and occupations that require strength and analytical skills. Women, by contrast, are still much more common in childcare and domestic work areas.