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Gender Stereotypes and Attitudes Towards Information and Communication Technology Professionals in a Sample of Spanish Secondary Students

Abstract

This study examined Spanish young people’s gender-stereotyped beliefs and attitudes about people working in the field of information and communications technology (ICT). For this purpose, their positive, negative, and neutral perceptions of the associated characteristics of these workers were also analyzed. Likewise, the use of masculine, feminine, or neutral expressions to describe these professionals was explored. The existence of gender differences in these aspects was also investigated. 900 students from Catalonia (51 % girls) enrolled in the last course of junior secondary education (mean of age=15 years old; S.D. = 1.73) participated in a survey with close and open-ended questions. Content analysis of responses to an open-ended question indicated that the boys and girls held several stereotypical beliefs about ICT professionals (a highly male-dominated field), but they also reported counter-stereotypical beliefs about them. As expected, these stereotypical beliefs described a masculine portrayal of ICT workers. Contrary to expectations, most of the students’ portrayals of people working in ICT were either positive or neutral, not negative. Likewise and opposite to predictions, young males did not show more positive attitudes towards ICT professionals than girls. In fact, both girls and boys evaluated more positively than negatively the different descriptive aspects associated with ICT professionals. In support of expectations, most boys and girls referred to masculine role models working in ICT. No gender differences were observed in the type of characteristics associated with ICT professionals. However, young females were more likely to offer feminine references about professions where ICT is the tool rather than the object of their work. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings within the context of Spain are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

This article is part of a broader research project funded by the Catalonian Women’s Institute (Exp. N°. U77/08) and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (FEM2009-05878-E). The authors would like to thank Monica Bonch and Federica Mancini for helping us with the construction and validation of the analytical categories. Our sincere thanks to Imma Sánchez Sáiz from the language department of the Universitat Oberta de Calalunya for helping us with the linguistic coding of some of the categories in Spanish. We are very grateful to all participants in the research and to all contact people without whom none of this would have been possible. Special thanks to the blind reviewers and editors.

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Correspondence to Milagros Sáinz.

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Sáinz, M., Meneses, J., López, BS. et al. Gender Stereotypes and Attitudes Towards Information and Communication Technology Professionals in a Sample of Spanish Secondary Students. Sex Roles 74, 154–168 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-014-0424-2

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Keywords

  • Attitudes
  • Gender Roles
  • ICT
  • Stereotypes
  • Underrepresentation