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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01965

Editorial: Gender Roles in the Future? Editorial: Gender Roles in the Future? Theoretical Foundations and Future Research Directions

  • 1Northwestern University, United States
  • 2University of Bern, Switzerland

Personality and Social Psychology, featured work that fit within the broad umbrella of social role theory and related approaches.The contemporary interest in the psychology of gender reflects its centrality in the understanding of social behavior. Gender continues to be a driving force in world politics and economics, as evident in the struggles of women to attain parity in political and economic institutions, the transformative impact of the #me-too movement, and the falling birthrates in many nations as women opt for careers instead of large families. In addition, binary gender itself is facing challenge as the two primary sex categories of female and male yield to accommodate multiple gender and sexual identities, including nonbinary identities and transgender status.One of the central topics of the social psychology of gender is gender stereotypes, understood as consensual beliefs about the attributes of women and men. Although describing the content of gender stereotypes might seem to be a task already accomplished many decades ago (e.g., Broverman, Vogel, Broverman, Clarkson, & Rosenkrantz, 1972), research on this matter has continually expanded. Not only has recent research described change in gender stereotypes over time (Eagly, Nater, Miller, Kaufmann, & Sczesny, 2019), but also this Research Topic includes Tanja Hentschel, Madeline Heilman, and Claudia Peus's article that identifies facets underlying these stereotypes' two primary dimensions of agency and communion. Their analysis of agency thus revealed the facets of independence, instrumental competence, and leadership competence and of communion yielded the facets of concern for others, sociability, and emotional sensitivity. Other advances in stereotype research consider Editorial: Gender Roles in the Future? intersectionalities between gender and other social attributes as well as the prescriptive aspect of gender stereotypes by which they define what members of each sex should and should not do. Illustrating these advances, Anne Koenig's research explores prescriptive stereotypes for the intersections of gender with age from toddlerhood to old age. Among her findings is a weakening of these gender stereotypes in relation to elderly women and men.Gender stereotypes exert influence in daily life even when they compete with the influences of other social roles. In particular, occupational roles have demands that may be more or less consistent with gender roles.In extending social role theory to account for such circumstances, Eagly and Karau (2002) argued that the female gender stereotype is generally inconsistent with leader roles because of the expectations that women are communal and that leaders, like men, are agentic. Consequently, women can suffer discrimination in relation to leadership roles because many people believe that they are insufficiently agentic to perform effectively as leaders.Francesca Manzi raises the issue of whether parallel discriminatory processes exist for men who occupy or seek to For leadership, gender makes a difference, given the definition of leadership primarily in culturally masculine terms that disfavor women. Andrea Vial and Jaime Napier offer clever demonstrations that people do view agentic traits as more important than communal traits for successful leaders, thus confirming women's disadvantage for attaining leader roles. Communal traits appear to be a nice, but inessential add-on for leaders.Editorial: Gender Roles in the Future?Another disadvantage for women, as shown by Abigail Player, Georgina Randsley de Moura, Ana Leite, Dominic Abrams, and Fatima Tresh, is that male candidates for leadership are valued more highly for their perceived potential to be a good leader rather than their past performance. Female candidates, in contrast, are valued more for their past performance and given relatively little credit for their potential. Consistent with the female stereotype of low agency, women thus have the burden of proving their leadership competence rather than merely being trusted to have potential for the future. As shown by Freya Gruber, Carina Veidt, and Tuulia Ortner, some women do emerge as leaders, and greater facial attractiveness fosters their emergence by fostering the ascription of social competence to them. These researchers have yet to investigate the importance of facial attractiveness to male leaders.Increasing gender diversity in organizations is surely an important social goal for advocates of gender equality. Yet, organizational processes are not so simple that merely adding women catalyzes gains for other women. In fact, women in leadership roles do not necessarily work to change organizational norms to insure equal opportunity for other women, as Naomi Sterk, Loes Meeussen, and Colette van Laar argue. Instead, senior women may accept negative stereotypes about women's lesser capacity for leadership. Such "queen bee" senior women may distance themselves from junior women and thus exert negative effects on them. Moreover, as Hans van Dijk and Marloes van Engen explain, despite the presence of gender-diverse work groups, organizational behaviors are often constrained by self-reinforcing gender role expectations that perpetuate traditional gender-unfair practices.Gender stereotypes exert influence in other situations as well. One such setting is high-stakes aptitude tests whose outcomes affect the opportunities of women and men. As shown by Julia Leiner, Thomas Scherndl, and Tuulia Ortner's research on Austrian medical school aptitude tests, there are intriguing sex difference in the ways that female and male test takers perceive the test situation. In particular, the women experienced greater test anxiety than men and perceived the test as less fair. Another realm of social behavior that is fraught with gender issues is sexual coercion and rape. Claire Gravelin, Monica Biernat, and Caroline Bucher provide a thorough review of what is now a large research literature on tendencies to blame the victim of acquaintance rape. Also related to sexual violence is an incident in Germany of mass sexual assault on New Year's Eve of 2015. The discourse that ensued received careful analysis by Bettina Hannover, John Gubernath, Martin Schultze, and Lysann Zander. One question that Germans faced is whether the largely Muslim perpetrators of these assaults were Editorial: Gender Roles in the Future? motivated by particularly sexist attitudes toward girls and women that emanated from their religion. The findings of this research instead implicated, not a particular religion, but high levels of religiosity and fundamentalism as precursors of the sexist beliefs that fostered violence against women.In a world in which gender is always in flux, the future of gender relations is uncertain. To help understand this future, Marie Gustafsson Sendén, Amanda Klysing, Anna Lindqvist, and Emma Renström asked Swedes to indicate what they think that the traits of Swedish women and men were in the past, are in the present, and will be in the future. Replicating earlier research by Diekman and Eagly (1999), respondents perceived women to increase in agentic traits over time but remain more communal than men. Such beliefs, derived from the abstract belief that gender equality is increasing, may not reflect actual changes in stereotype content over time (Eagly et al., 2019).The contemporary challenges to the binary view of sex, gender, and sexuality receive important exploration in the essay by Thekla Morgenroth and Michelle Ryan. They reviewed earlier writing by the philosopher Judith Butler, who advocated "gender trouble" that would disrupt the binary view of gender. As these authors suggest, Butler's ideas can guide understanding of some of the ways that performance socially constructs gender in society. Butler's writings on performativity and related themes can provide intriguing hypotheses for systematic empirical exploration by social psychologists. In the meantime, other social psychologists argue that the way forward in gender theory entails exploring how gender is and is not socially constructed by producing research that also considers the biological grounding of some patterns of male and female behavior (Eagly & Wood, 2013).From this interactionist perspective, nature and nurture are intertwined in producing the phenomena of gender.The articles included in this Research Topic are broadly positioned across the field of social psychology, which encompasses a wide range of themes pertaining to sex and gender. Some of these themes link social psychology to other areas of psychological specialization, such as personality, developmental, cultural, industrialorganizational, and biological psychology as well as to the other social science disciplines of sociology, political science, and economics. In invoking other disciplines and psychology subfields, many of the authors whose work appears in this Research Topic recognize the importance of social roles as a central integrative concept in theories of gender. These articles thereby complement social role theory by reaching out to build an extended theoretical foundation for gender research of the future.Editorial: Gender Roles in the Future?

Keywords: Gender prejudice, Social Role Theory, communion, agency, Gender stereotypes, gender roles

Received: 07 Aug 2019; Accepted: 09 Aug 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Eagly and Sczesny. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Alice H. Eagly, Northwestern University, Evanston, United States, eagly@northwestern.edu