Social identity theory and intergroup relations in gender dominated occupations : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Previous research has found that men and women have quite different experiences of working in opposite gender dominated occupations. The effect of societal status on the processes that occur in gender dominated occupations often results in negative outcomes for women and positive outcomes for men. The study aimed to explore the attitudes and beliefs of individuals working in gender dominated occupations. It focussed specifically on how people who work in gender dominated occupations react to their group's position as a numerical majority or minority and the groups' attitudes towards their situation. Social Identity Theory (SIT, Tajfel & Turner, 1979) was adopted as a guiding framework for the research. The sample for the study consisted of male and female volunteers working in gender dominated occupations. 110 male and female nurses and 97 men and women working in two male dominated occupations (engineers and prison officers) participated. To achieve the aims of the study specific areas of SIT were measured. The areas included identification with the gender group, how prominent gender and occupation were in the self-concept, and whether gender was used as a basis for categorisations of others. Also measured were perceptions of the status of the groups and beliefs about how fair and open to change the intergroup situation was. In addition, perceived acceptance of the ingroup and acceptance towards the outgroup, beliefs about changing the groups' position and the support or rejection of outgroups' beliefs were measured. The following specific measures were used: the Spontaneous Self-concept, the Gender Salience Scale, and Hinkle, Taylor, Fox-Cardamone and Crook's (1989) measure of group identification. SIT makes specific predictions about how beliefs about the intergroup situation and identification with the group are related to social change beliefs. Results showed that gender affected choice of social change beliefs for achieving positive distinctiveness, with men being higher on social mobility beliefs, and women higher in social creativity and social competition beliefs. Engineers were higher in social mobility beliefs and social creativity beliefs than nurses. Status also affected social change beliefs with low status groups being more likely to choose social competition strategies than high status groups. Women showed less support for social competition and social creativity beliefs in the outgroup than men. Women showed more support for social mobility beliefs in the outgroup than men. Nurses showed less support for social mobility beliefs in the outgroup than engineers. Nurses had lower social competition (maintaining status) beliefs than did engineers. Status also affected support of the outgroup's social change beliefs. The low status group showed higher support of social mobility beliefs in the outgroup than the high status group, and higher social competition beliefs than the equal and high status groups. The equal group showed less support for outgroup social competition than did the high status group. The results of regression analysis showed that gender was the best predictor of ingroup social mobility beliefs and ingroup social competition beliefs. Gender also was the best predictor of attitudes towards outgroup social mobility beliefs and ingroup social competition (to maintain status) beliefs. Gender identification was the best predictor of ingroup social creativity beliefs, and support for social creativity beliefs in the outgroup. Legitimacy beliefs were the best predictor of support or rejection of the outgroup's social competition beliefs. The results of this study highlight the importance of using an approach that explores the different variables that predict each social change belief rather than focussing on the relationship between identification and differentiation as previous studies have done.