Ideally, people select and pursue their careers based on their personal interests, their abilities, and their desire to make a contribution in/to a particular arena. However, the ideal is not always realized for a variety of reasons. One such reason is the presence of gender stereotyping related to aptitude for a specific career or skill, jobs, and careers, in general. Gender stereotyping may begin in school with girls and boys who are encouraged to pursue careers that stereotypically appear to be more fitting for one gender or the other. This type of stereotyping often results in discrimination and harassment in the school or training for the field, discrimination in the workplace, closed doors for some types of employment, and limited career opportunities.
Psychologists have posed many justifications for the stereotyping that impacts career choice and career success. It may be that boys and girls are directed differently to specific careers beginning in early education. It may be that parents influence their children toward or away from specific career paths by their expectations, dialogue, and even toys they give their children to play with. It may be the stereotyping and resulting discrimination related to training and education that influences the career paths of men and women. It may be the influence from society in general related to what are considered to be appropriate roles for both men and women.
Additional gender-related challenges exist once men and women get to the workplace. Though discrimination and sexual harassment are often seen as women’s issues, men also experience discrimination and sexual harassment, especially in typically female-dominated occupations such as teaching, childcare, nursing, and some administrative positions. And while there may be a reduction in the occurrence of stereotyping, women historically have experienced discrimination that results in not being hired or promoted to upper management positions, unequal pay for equal work, and “glass ceilings” in many fields including health care, engineering, science, math, and protective services, just to name a few.
Psychologists continue to look for answers about why men and women behave differently and are treated differently in the workplace. Common explanations include the differences in communication styles often seen in men and women, issues associated with power struggles in the workplace, and societal expectations regarding roles of men and women.
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