Sexism Includes all Discriminatory

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I plan to study sexism and its possible negative effects on the general socioeconomic status of women. I will be referencing sexism, which are the ideas and action that perpetuate women as the lesser sex. Socioeconomic status is used to describe social and economic success when compared to other demographics, like that of men. Women have historically been regarded as the weaker sex, and this idea alone is often detrimental to a woman’s ability to have success both socially and economically. The subject of sexism is important for me as a young woman in society, particularly one that will soon be entering the American workforce. My research question is as follows: “Do the traditional gender roles present in American culture have an effect on a woman’s future socioeconomic success?”. This study will help the research community and the members of society further understand the real and tangible consequences that sexism can have and the difficulties that women often face, both sociologically and economically.

Literature Review

Sexism includes all discriminatory acts or ways of thinking, typically against women, on the simple basis of their sex. While mentioning socioeconomics, I aim to focus on variables that contribute to a woman’s sociological and economical success. More simply, her attainment of gender equality regarding her place in society and in turn, her ability to gain wealth. Sexist ideologies are often believed to originate within the home and are further implemented throughout an individual’s adolescence. This early implementation of discriminatory ideas is highlighted throughout two preceding studies (Fetterolf and Rudman 2014; Kagesten et al. 2016) and has a large impact on the presence of sexist ideologies in the future. This early period of a child’s life, leading up to and including adolescence, can have stricter constraints on what it means to be a boy and more important to the current study: what it means to be a girl (Kagesten et al. 2016). These limitations include designated characteristics for the two genders (ie. boy= strong and confident, girl= fragile and emotional), and more tangible restrictions like fashion trends meant strictly for one gender or another and both (Kagesten et al. 2016). It is understandable to think that pushing harsh ideologies can have lasting effects on young children, especially when they contain sexist rhetoric.

It has been supported in qualitative studies that even at this early age, both young boys and young girls affirm fundamentally sexist ideas. More specifically, masculinity is often linked to strength while femininity is commonly associated with weakness (Kagesten et al 2016). Furthermore, this rhetoric is often continued in the power dynamics between the mothers and fathers of these children. Domestic work, including caring for children, is likely designated for the woman (Fetterolf and Rudman 2014). This assumption of responsibility and burden is inherently oppressive against the woman, as it limits her abilities to achieve her goals outside of the home while the man is not tied down in the same manner. And on the occasion that the woman can pursue her own employment outside of the home, following this model of gender roles, she is often still expected to complete most of the domestic work while she is home (Fetterolf and Rudman 2014). Ideologies like this have led to the widely accepted idea of the man being the breadwinner and the woman being left to care for the living space, limiting her ability to move up on the socioeconomic ladder. In summary, both the heavy distinction between boys and girls and the gender roles observed in the home lead to the establishment of sexist gender ideologies that continue into adulthood for the persons involved (Fetterolf and Rudman 2014; Kagesten et al. 2016).

Another cornerstone in the gender ideology of an individual is their involvement in educational institutions that can enforce these ways of thinking. It is the responsibility of these institutions to provide adequate sex education to its students, particularly young girls. If girls are not aware of the dangers surrounding sex, it can then cause problems for their health, and in turn harming their potential for socioeconomic success (Carliner, Sarvet, Gordon and Hasin 2016; Hartmann et al. 2016). Studies have consistently shown that a lack of education and a prevalence of sexism is often a key catalyst in unhealthy behaviors, such as illicit drug use and has an obvious effect on their likelihood of future social and economic triumph (Carliner, Sarvet, Gordon and Hasin 2016). Contrastingly, a high level of education often results in the effective evaporation of gender discrimination (Baker and Whitehead 2015).

Overall health status, including the topic of mental health, is often inhibited by the prevalence of sexism in a woman’s life, whether that be institutional or otherwise (Landry and Mercurio 2009; Carliner, Sarvet, Gordon and Hasin 2016; Hartmann et al. 2016; Jozkowski and Wiersma-Mosley 2017). Women’s mental health specifically has proven to sustain damage by the presence of sexism, due to its personal and patronizing nature (Landry and Mercurio 2009). Rape culture, which is included in the umbrella of sexism, also perpetuates harmful gender norms (Jozkowski and Wiersma-Mosley 2017). Rape culture can be described as the sexist ideologies implemented by harmful actions, usually by men and against women, and includes all forms of sexual misconduct. While illegal, it is rare that the perpetuator (typically male) is not penalized to the proper degree (Jozkowski and Wiersma-Mosley 2017). Both rape culture and sexism have a substantial effect on woman’s ability to focus on social and monetary gain, since both make such an impact on the way they view themselves.

Financial gain is particularly hard for women who have endured sexist ideals throughout their lives (Fetterolf and Rudman 2014; Reilly and Newmann 2013; Preece, Stoddard, and Fisher 2015; Carbone and Cahn 2013; Jozkowski and Wiersma-Mosley 2017). Toxic gender roles have much to do with this monetary stagnation (Fetterolf and Rudman 2014; Reilly and Newman 2013; Carbone and Cahn 2013). Traditionally, men are the breadwinner and women are meant to stay at home and care for the children and complete the housework. This halts women’s opportunity to gain socioeconomic achievements.

Social Role Theory is a sociological viewpoint that views most actions that an individual makes as the person portraying a role previously established by society (Eagly & Wood 2016). The roles one assumes can contain norms and characteristics, power differences, diagnoses, and manners that they then must either reject or accept (Eagly & Wood 2016). These assumptions exist in society whether a person chooses to acknowledge them or not, which means that their possible consequences are inevitable. This is relevant to my study in that many women may feel the need to fulfill the role of a “traditional” woman, a mold that was created by society.

Purpose of the Study

A gap in the literature I’ve analyzed is a relationship between the implementation of traditional roles in the home during adolescence and the effect it can have on a woman in her future endeavors, both in life and in the workforce. Although many articles link sexist ideologies with lack of future opportunities for women, none that I’ve seen in my research have placed much focus on the implementation of these ideas during a woman’s upbringing. Many tend to focus on the current state of feminism, while failing to realize that ideas prevalent in the adolescence of an individual can have long-lasting effects on their degree of future success. The purpose of my study is to fill this gap in the literature, and to closely examine the most impactful ways in which women are influenced throughout their lives. Looking at these influences may help to alleviate the harmful ideologies present, and perhaps encourage change among American society in regard to women.



My hypothesis is that there is a relationship between the employment status of one’s mother at the time the individual is sixteen and the likelihood of said individual participating in the workforce in the future. Specifically, I predict that this relationship will be particularly significant when looking at female respondents due to the supposed impact of having the same-sex parent as a role model for workforce participation.


The source of data that I am using comes from the General Social Survey taken by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The General Social Survey was conducted for the first time in 1972 and has been given almost annually ever since. This particular round of interviews was given between the dates of April 5th and November 19th of 2016. Principal investigators involved in the administration of the General Social Survey include Tom W. Smith, Michael Davern, Jeremy Freese, and Stephen L. Morgan. The GSS strives to gain information on changes that happen in society and to give explanation to societal trends that occur. The survey includes information on the demographics of the respondents and their corresponding opinions on topics like government, spirituality, race relations, and current American culture. The broad range of possible topics allows for the cross-examination of certain statistics in order to determine why certain groups of people tend to experience the same sorts of phenomena.


The General Social Survey targets American households, particularly adults (18 and older) to be included in the study. As stated on their official website, the sample is drawn utilizing an area probability design, selecting households at random to participate. The GSS also attempts to involve respondents of varying ages and geographic areas. Moreover, due to the fact that only a few thousand actually choose to participate in the main survey, all cases become vital to the success of the study.


My independent variable is “employment status of respondent’s mother when respondent was sixteen” with the answer choices of “working” and “not working”. My dependent variable is “whether or not the respondent is currently working for pay”, with the answer choices of “yes” and “no”. Both variables have nominal levels of measurement, due to there being only two answer choices for each of the question asked and no values associated with either.

Analytic Strategy

Seeing as my level of measurement is nominal, it is best that I use a chi-square test to determine whether or not there is a relationship present between my independent and dependent variables. The relationship between my independent variable (employment status of respondent’s mother when respondent was sixteen) and my dependent variable (whether or not the respondent is currently working for pay) is significant to my study due to the relative importance of an adolescent witnessing a parent participating in the workforce.

Ethical Considerations

As I handle the data, I will need to continuously consider the sensitivity surrounding the topics I am examining and analyzing. Because some American individuals have cultural attachments to the traditional gender roles prevalent in the U.S. during the twentieth century, there is a need to consider this information when analyzing the relationships between the frequencies.


The hypothesis being tested is that the employment status of a child’s mother when the child is 16 can have an effect on whether or not the child participates in the workforce in the future. I also predict this relationship to be particularly significant for female respondents when controlling for the variable of sex.

You will see in Table 3 that when controlling for sex and looking specifically at male respondents, the relationship between the respondent’s current workforce participation and their mother’s employment status at the time the respondent was sixteen seemingly disappears. 68.8% of male respondents whose mothers were working at the time they were sixteen are currently working for pay. Similarly, 62.9% of male respondents whose mothers were NOT employed at the time they were sixteen are currently working for pay. Percentages of male respondents not working for pay are also similar when looking at the employment status of the mother at the time the respondent was sixteen. 31.2% of male respondents whose mothers were employed at the time the respondent was sixteen are currently working for pay, while 37.1% of respondents whose mothers were NOT employed at the time the respondent was sixteen. This shows that the employment status of male respondent’s mother at the time the respondent was sixteen years old has a relatively small and insignificant effect on whether or not the male respondent currently participates in the workforce.

Contrastingly, when controlling for sex and looking at female respondents specifically, there seems to be a significant relationship between current workforce participation of respondent and the employment status of the respondent’s mother at the time the respondent was sixteen. 66.1% of female respondents whose mothers were employed at the time the respondents were sixteen are now currently working for pay while only 41.7% of female respondents whose mothers were NOT employed at the time the respondent was sixteen are currently working for pay. 33.9% of female respondents indicating that their mother was employed at the time they were sixteen are currently not working for pay and 58.3% of female respondents indicating that their mother was NOT employed at the time they were sixteen are currently not working for pay. Based on these results, it appears that when controlling for sex, the relationship between male respondents’ current workforce participation and their mothers’ employment status at the time the respondent was sixteen effectively disappears. However, the relationship between female respondents’ current workforce participation and the employment status of their mother at the time the respondent was sixteen becomes significantly stronger when controlling for sex.

Table 3 shows that when looking at the population as a whole, the value of the ?2 (chi-square) is 25.187 and the p-value is .000. The p-value for the population is .000, which reflects a relationship between the independent variable and dependent variable even before controlling for sex. When looking particularly at the male respondents, the value of the ?2 (chi-square) is 2.018 and the p-value is .155. Since the p-value is larger than .05, the results of the chi-square tests indicate that the relationship between gender and support for immigration is statistically insignificant and can essentially be disregarded for the purpose of my study. Contrastingly, when looking at the female respondents only, the value of the ?2 (chi-square) is 32.488 and the p-value is .000. Since the corresponding p-value for female respondents is smaller than .05, this indicates a statistically significant relationship between the employment status of the respondent’s mother when they were sixteen and whether or not the respondent is currently working for pay.


This paper attempts to link the prevalence of traditional gender-roles in the United States to the challenges faced by American women among their ventures into society and the workforce. The literature analyzed gives insight into how sexist ideologies and policies can be detrimental to a woman’s future socioeconomic success. My conclusion of the relationship observed is that although many factors contribute to a woman’s relative success, perhaps the most significant is her exposure to traditional gender-roles during her adolescence. Among the findings of the study, it seems that young girls look unto their mothers as role-models for future workforce participation. This relationship is simply not significant when dealing with young boys. Limitations of my study include the fact that many respondents of the overall GSS chose to not participate in the particular questions included in my study. One can assume that this is due to the cultural sensitivity surrounding these topics. Possible future directions for this research are perhaps interviews that are more specifically focused on the effects of following traditional gender-roles in the home.


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