Yes I Can!: Effects of Gender Fair Job Descriptions on Children’s Perceptions of Job Status, Job Difficulty, and Vocational Self-Efficacy

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Abstract

Many countries face the problem of skill shortage in traditionally male occupations. Individuals’ development of vocational interests and employment goals starts as early as in middle childhood and is strongly influenced by perceptions of job accessibility (status and difficulty) and self-efficacy beliefs. In this study, we tested a linguistic intervention to strengthen children’s self-efficacy toward stereotypically male occupations. Two classroom experiments with 591 primary school students from two different linguistic backgrounds (Dutch or German) showed that the presentation of occupational titles in pair forms (e.g., Ingenieurinnen und Ingenieure, female and male engineers), rather than in generic masculine forms (Ingenieure, plural for engineers), boosted children’s self-efficacy with regard to traditionally male occupations, with the effect fully being mediated by perceptions that the jobs are not as difficult as gender stereotypes suggest. The discussion focuses on linguistic interventions as a means to increase children’s self-efficacy toward traditionally male occupations.

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