Communal Roles

Men’s Underrepresentation in Communal Roles

Over the past 10 years, my program of research on stereotype threat has increasingly led me to ask broader questions about the barriers to women’s advancement in traditionally male dominated roles. In the process of considering the experience of working professionals, it becomes obvious that a key barrier to women’s advancement in professional careers is actually men’s relative lack of interest in more communally oriented domains like childcare. As a result, many women find themselves opting out of leadership positions at work due to their need to shoulder more of the burden of domestic work at home. Although social psychology has long been interested in understanding patterns of stereotyping, gender roles, and inequality, there is a relative dearth of theory and research specifically aimed at understanding the pattern of asymmetry in changing gender roles. To fill this gap, my lab has initiated a new line of research seeking to understand men’s underrepresentation in communal roles, and how this underrepresentation affects women.

To first organize the state of current theory and evidence, we have published a paper that reviews some of underlying cultural, evolutionary, and historical perspectives on why there is an asymmetry in status assigned to stereotypically male and female traits and roles (Croft, Schmader, Block, 2015). In this paper, we make an empirically grounded argument for why men, women, children, and society as a whole would benefit from increasing men’s representation in communal roles, and articulate the role of gender stereotypes in creating intrapersonal and interpersonal barriers to men’s developing interest in communal roles.

Currently, we are engaged in several different research projects related to this topic. These include studies that examine people’s perceptions of gender inequality and their motivation (or lack thereof) to encourage men to take on more communal roles or embrace more communal traits. In a second line of research, we are trying to identify manipulations that increase men’s endorsement of communal values or interest in communal roles without eliciting identity threat. Finally, we are examining complementarity between men’s interest in communal roles and women’s own sense of agency. For example, young career-minded heterosexual women, knowing that men might be increasingly interested in taking on a larger role in childcare, might more easily envision themselves as becoming the primary breadwinner in their future family. Some of other research suggests that fathers’ involvement in communal roles at home relates to daughters reporting less stereotypic aspirations for their future (Croft, Schmader, Block, & Baron, 2014). Our current research, in collaboration with Andy Baron, is also seeking to understand the developmental trajectory of boys’ and girls’ endorsement of communal traits and values.

For further reading:

Croft, A., Schmader, T., & Block, K. (Online First, Jan 9, 2015). An unexamined inequality: Cultural origins and psychological barriers contributing to men’s underrepresentation in communal roles. Personality and Social Psychology Review.

Schmader, T., & Block, K. (2015). Engendering identity: Toward a clearer conceptualization of gender as a social identity. Invited commentary in Sex Roles. DOI 10.1007/s11199-015-0536-3

Croft, A., Schmader, T., Block, K., & Baron, A.S. (2014). The second shift reflected in the second generation: Do parents’ gender roles at home predict children’s aspirations? Psychological Science, 25, 1418-1428.

Baron, A.S., Schmader, T., Cvencek, D., & Meltzoff, A. (2014). The gendered self-concept: How implicit gender stereotypes and attitudes shape self-definition. In P.J. Leman & H.R. Tenenbaum (Eds.), Gender and Development (pp. 109-132), New York: Psychology Press.