Study: Sexist beliefs promote gender inequality

Posted Oct 30, 2011 by Kathleen Blanchard
Researcher Mark Brandt has been trying to understand what factors affect gender inequality. He recently conducted a study to find out sexist beliefs directly impact inequalities between women and men.
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Brandt, of DePaul University, explored data from an international survey conducted between 2005 and 2007 for his study.
He explains, “I’m interested in the consequences people’s beliefs about how the world should work and how the world does work.
The survey contained the sexist statements: “On the whole, men make better political leaders than women do” and “On the whole, men make better business executives than women do."
Brandt also used a United Nations Gender Development Report for his study, finding sexism was associated with gender inequality that develops over time.
Brandt says, “You could get the impression that having sexist beliefs, or prejudiced beliefs more generally, is just an individual thing—‘my beliefs don’t impact you, But this study shows that isn’t true. If individual people in a society are sexist, men and women in that society become less equal.”
The study, published in Psychological Science, shows if women and men are to function equally in society, “individual attitudes have to change”, says Brandt.
He notes some policies can contribute gender inequality, though some countries have tried to bridge the gap by mandating a certain number of legislative seats to women.
He also says gender inequality is “a tough beast to crack” because so many factors contribute to women being less equal in society. The finding shows sexist beliefs have a direct impact on how society functions and that sexism can lead to inequalities between women and men.