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Running head: STEREOTYPES INFLUENCING AMERICAN WOMEN

Stereotypes Influencing American Women: A Review of Literature


Amy Montalvo
The University of Texas at El Paso
Wednesday 7:30-8:50
Mr. Paul Vierra
October 16, 2015

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Abstract
In the early nineteenth century women were granted the right to vote. It gave a sense of
pride to the American women of this century. Progression then started to show when women
were starting to take over the workforce. As of today it is estimated that about half of the
workforce population are women (Department of Professional Employees, 2015). Women did
not decide to make revolution change like this by themselves. Their decisions were influenced be
certain factors, like society and its culture. This paper will discuss how women can be shaped by
culture, how women were able to conquer the stereotypical way of working at home to working
out of the house, how stereotypes influence the decisions of choosing a job, and the inequalities
in the workforce.

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As a person we assume that we know so much about that person based on their sex. This
presumes from gender bias, which is prejudice or discrimination based on gender, or conditions
that support gender stereotypes or social roles (Baslow, 1992). It does not come from a persons
attitude, but it is created by many societal cultures. Women are affected daily with certain
stereotypes that can alter personality traits, domestic behaviors, occupations, and physical
appearance. To understand more on how American women are prevailed by stereotypes, four
questions are going to be analyzed:
1. How is culture shaping American women?
2. Has the image of a workingwomen changed over time? If so, how?
3. Are there more men than women in the engineering field? If so, why?
4. Are women discouraged to be leaders at work? If so, why?
Because stereotypes can be found everywhere, therefore it is necessary to examine how it is
impacting womens lives, since they can be highly influenced when making life-decisions.

How is culture shaping American women?


According to the bible, religion can give instructions of behavior for society and
culture. When it comes to culture, religion plays a big role, by which it is already placing a set of
beliefs to have a moral life. The Bible affirms how a woman should behave towards their partner
when it states, Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness I do not permit a woman to
teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet (1 Timothy 2:11-15,
New International Version). The Bible also gives a list of expectations on how women should be
acting and doing when it says, Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not
slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women

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to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and
submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5, New
International Version).
According to Longmire and Merrill, society has been shaped because of three
experiences, which are communication, gender, and power (1998). From the day a person is
born, gender will depict how he/she should behave throughout his/her years. As a person grows,
they learn to behave based on their surroundings. During this process children are introduced to
specific roles that are connected to their gender. Gender role comes from societys perception
of how women and men are expected to comport and act (Boundless, 2015). In American culture,
feminine roles have been identified as servitude, sympathetic, and caring. Expectations for
specific behaviors can derive from family, education, media, and companions. Parents will often
give dolls to female children that will arouse nurturing and social proximity. Feminine gender
roles will continue later on in life. Women have the favor to choose care-related occupations such
as childcare, healthcare, and social work (Boundless, 2015). These favorable occupations come
from cultures tradition. The perspectives and expectations of gender roles are based on gender
stereotypes. Gender stereotypes form the basis of sexism, or the prejudiced beliefs that values
males over females (Boundless, 2015). Some familiar forms of sexism can be for example, the
expectation of women being the caretakers of the household, women being the ones who cook,
women being weaker than men, women expecting to look pretty all times, or women not being
able to work on cars.
Gender roles mold a persons behavior not only by instructing how people of each gender
should behave, but also by conveying victimization when these instructions are not followed
(Boundless, 2015). For example a transgender faces discrimination and hardships everyday

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because they are not obeying societys common traditional roles. A woman can adhere these
hardships when they try to take over a mans position.

Has the image of a workingwomen changed over time? If so, how?


The mindset of women only being home-workers was starting to slowly fade away after
World War II. According to Tyrkk and Gons, women seeking employment has increased over
decades and it has also established gendered patterns (2015). Women before World War II had
long been seen as the ones who stay at home to take care of the children. The stereotypical,
perfect American family had the father that brought home the bacon each day during the week
and the mother who raised their children (Historpedia, 2012). Women always worked on their
home, but it was never honored. During WWII changes and a new revolution to the workforce
was going to be seen. America going to this war helped shape this country as to what it is today
(Historpedia, 2012). Men were always the main source of work production until the majority of
the male population was drafted to war. America needed someone to take the spots that men had
left and the only choice was women. From working at home, women were now working on
factories to help out in the war effort. A popular propaganda used during this time was Rosie the
Riveter, which was the symbol of the ideal workingwoman.

Retrieved from http://history.howstuffworks.com/historical-figures/rosie-riveter.htm

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Not only did women start working on factories, but also many of them started joining
the military. These changes challenged the social norms and the views of women as a sex
(Historpedia, 2012). Expectations of women were changing the status quo to equality among the
sexes and they seemed to have a desire to make a change to glorify their gender. Working away
from home didnt apply to every woman in America, but it did encourage many to make a
change. According to the Department of Professional Employees (DPE), women make up more
than half of the professional and technical workforce in the United States (2015). In 1972,
women represented about 38 percent of the workforce and in 2014 that percentage raised to 47
percent (DPE, 2015). You can see theres a great increment over the past two decades.
Now that many women are entering the workforce, a dramatic social change will take
place (The Economist, 2009). Women can now be seeing as independent rather than being
dependent of their partners. The improvement of education and the considerable
acknowledgement that women are scoring equally in tests as men has made it acceptable for
women to compete against men. Improvement in technology, for example the vacuum cleaner,
has made it easier for women to work and also have time to do chores at home. The expansion
of higher education has boosted job prospects for women, improving their value on the job
market and shifting their role models from stay-at-home mothers to successful professional
women (The Economist, 2009). By 2009, 80 percent of American women that received a
college education are in the labor force compared to 62 percent in 1963. The stereotype that
women are supposed to stay at home is slightly decreasing over the years as women have proved
that they are able to do the same tasks as men can.

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Are there more men than women in the engineering field? If so, why?
According to Xu Yonghong, the numbers of women becoming engineers are getting
smaller instead of increasing years due to gender role socialization (Yonghong, 2015). When it
comes to college students choosing a career path, women will have different preferences than
men. This mostly pertains to career expectations or traditions at home. Women will most likely
look for an occupation that doesnt require much traveling or much of their time out of home.
The image below demonstrates the interest of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and
mathematics) of a female vs. male.

Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/markfidelman/2012/06/05/heres-the-real-reason-there-are-not-more-womenin-technology/2/http://www.forbes.com/sites/markfidelman/2012/06/05/heres-the-real-reason-there-are-not-more-womenin-technology/2/

The following claim can be examined on the campus halls of the engineering building
from UTEP. Based on an observation on an Intro to Engineering course at UTEP, the ratio of the
female to male was approximately 7 to 38. A survey was also conducted within a couple of pre-

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engineer students. Fifteen students were asked how many females were in their engineering
classes. Their responses were all similar. There were more men than females in their classes by
almost a third. The difference gap is greatly noticeable. In addition, according to the 2014 UTEP
Fact Sheet, only 21 percent of the students who enrolled in the engineering program were
women. Most of the times you will see many females changing their major due to intimidation
and the lack of encouragement. Aimee Montalvo, an engineer student at Texas A&M, considered
changing majors her first semester because she felt that she was put aside when working on
group projects with males. She also mentioned that there was no encouragement from professors
or peers.
Women are raised in a stereotypical world. When it comes to television; on shows,
cartoons, movies, and other TV sources, it is noticeable that most of the time males will play the
role of the engineer. In contrast, when a woman plays the exact same role she will most likely be
portrayed as the geeky one. As a result, research has indicated that when females are exposed
to nerdy white-guy stereotypes, it discourages them from STEM fields (Welsh, 2013). The lack
of encouragement is another factor that attribute to women refusing to go into the engineering
field. Studies have revealed that if women are told that men are better at math, their scores tend
to be lower than men, but when they are told that it is not true then their scores tend to be the
same (Welsh, 2013). The same thing works with STEM. They see that not many women are
entering this field; therefore their choice goes somewhere else. In addition, some cultures send
out messages like girls should be Pretty like Mommy and for boys its Smart Like Daddy
(Sandberg, 2013). Women grow with a mindset that we are not supposed to be smart which are
what engineers are.

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Is there still gender inequality in the workforce?


Even though our generations were raised in an era of increasing equality, there are still
great inequalities in the workforce. According to Nadler and Stockdale there is still great
attention in the differences between a woman and a man in the workforce (2012). Evidence has
shown that inequalities between the two genders are recognized daily at work. There is income
inequality in America. There always has been (Williams, 2012). The difference in pay rates and
promotions between men and women still continue up to this date. According to Sandberg,
women have to work approximately twelve years longer to earn the same amount of money than
a male peer would (2013). Data has also shown that female doctors earn only 64 percent than a
male doctor (Williams, 2012). The pay gap is evoked by a number of factors, which are
discrimination, gender difference in college majors, number of hours that a man and a woman
work, and women negotiating salaries less often than men. Also according to Figure 1, it is
noticeable that as men and women get older the wage gap increases even more. This shows that
men are getting more promotions than women even though the same years of labor has been
done.

Figure 1.
Retrieved from http://www.inpowerwomen.com/research-says-equal-pay-still-stretch-goal/

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According to Belkin women are seeing distinct from men when it comes to work.
Depending on how a woman acts depends on how strong the criticize will be because of gender
stereotypes (2007). In the workforce, men are still considered as the mental image of the leader.
Of the 195 independent countries in the world, only 19 are led by women. Women hold about
15 percent of executive officer poaitions, 17 percent of board seats, and constitute 19 percent of
our elected congressional officials (Sandberg, 2013). When women take over roles that
contravene how a woman should act, they will most likely be judged in a negative way that say
that they are acting in an unfeminine way or too vigorous. Women are expected to be nurturing
people, but are seen unsuited to a job if they act too ladylike. Women are also expected to be
competent, but are seen discordant when they try to act like leaders.
Approximately 58% of U.S. workers have experienced at least one unwanted socialsexual incident in the workplace and 24% have answered affirmatively that they have been
sexually harassed (Nadler and Stockdale, 2012). Harassers are typically males who either seek
justice against women who tried to threaten their power or position. Women can be seen as easy
targets because they are considered weak. Their attitudes objectify women as sexual objects to
pleasure men or to punish them for prescriptive stereotype violations (Nadler and Stockdale,
2012). In other words women who step out of the feminine behavior tend to be more desirable
to harassers.
Conclusion
In conclusion stereotypes have impacted how women are living today and why their
decisions are made a certain way. Many social norms were created, but some were combated to
create the image of the woman that it is today. Stereotypes can give an explanation to questions
like, why are there more male NASCAR drivers than female NASCAR drivers? Stereotypes can

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change as time passes by; therefore more decisions will be influenced and changed amongst the
American population.

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