For the first time, American women outnumber men on the US Olympic team. This is a milestone in sporting history – one of many for women in the professional world.

The US labor force has changed momentously in the past 50 years or so. The male dominated and top-down office of the 1950s has been replaced with a much greater degree of equality and meritocracy. This has in turn given millions of American women – now 47% of the workforce – economic dependence and the opportunity to forge their own careers.

Women we see in the news – including the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and the host of female Olympians competing this summer – are testament to this momentous change. The transformation has also profoundly affected men. They now have the opportunity to interact with women on a professional level aside from their family and social life, and take on roles which used to be solely ‘women’s work’.

There is no denying that the overwhelming majority of Americans, and the law, demands equality of opportunity for both sexes. But does this mean both genders are equally suitable to perform any job? A YouGov survey has found that many Americans still consider some jobs to be more suitable for men than woman or more suitable for women than men.

The biggest group of respondents (42%) says that men and women are equally suited to any job – except when they were asked what jobs were more suitable for a woman to perform, where midwife comes out top (44%). The most popular jobs for men are a firefighter (37% responded men are more suitable) and an army general (25% said men are more suitable). Equality campaigners may be disappointed to find that 11% of people responded a man is more suitable to be president, with 1% saying that a woman is more suitable.

Male and female attitudes are mixed toward gender roles in the workplace. Women are more likely to consider the sexes as equally suited to any job – 49% of women compared with 35% of men. This trend is evident when data is broken down by male and female respondents – women tend to be more reluctant to say a man or a woman is more suited to a particular job.

  • Firefighting is more suitable for a MAN according to 43% of men and 31% of women
  • 21% of men said hairdressing is more suitable for a WOMAN to do, and 12% of women
  • 9% of women said a FEMALE is more suited to be a flight attendant and 19% of men
  • 9% of women and 6% of men think a MAN is more suitable to be an airline pilot

There is also an element of conservatism among older respondents when it comes to ‘traditional’ gender roles.

  • 23% of over-65s say a WOMAN is more suited to be a secretary (18% nationally)
  • A receptionist is seen as more suitable for a WOMAN by 18% of over-65s (15% nationally)
  • 11% of over-65s think an airline pilot is more suitable for a MAN (7% nationally)

But…

  • 51% of over-65s think MEN and WOMEN are equally suitable to the jobs listed – this figure is 37% for 18-29 year-olds

Where Americans are on the political spectrum may also affect how they view gender roles in the workplace. Republicans are much more likely to stick to traditional single-sex dominated jobs when asked if men or women are more suitable.

  • 60% of Republicans and 47% of Democrats think a WOMAN is more suited to be a midwife
  • More Democrats (46%) than Republicans (32%) think MEN and WOMEN are equally suitable to any job
  • 34% of Republicans and 15% of Democrats think a MAN is more suited to be an army general

In conducting this survey, a nationally representative panel of respondents was provided with list of 19 different vocations and asked: “Are any of these jobs more suitable for men than they are for women?” and “Are any of these jobs more suitable for women than they are for men?”

Do you think that there are ‘jobs for men’ and ‘jobs for women’ – or are the sexes equally suitable to perform any job? And have you ever had a job which was traditionally performed by the other sex?

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