Gender at the Individual Adult Level
Sex Role Ideology
In virtually all human groups, women have greater responsibility for "domestic" activities, while men havegreater responsibility for "external" activities. These pancultural similarities originate, primarily, in the biological differences between the sexes, particularly the fact that women bear and, in most societies, nursethe offspring (Williams & Best, 1990b). However, recently in many societies these socially assigned dutiesare being shared, with men engaging in more domestic activities and women in more external, particularlyeconomic, activities. The gender division of labor is reviewed below, while here the beliefs and attitudesabout appropriate role behaviors for the two sexes are discussed.Most researchers classify sex role ideologies along a continuum ranging from traditional to modern.Traditional ideologies assert that men are more "important" than women, and that it is proper for men tocontrol and dominate women. In contrast, modern ideologies represent a more egalitarian view, sometimeslabeled a feminist position, in which women and men are equally important, and dominance of one gender over the other is rejected.Sex roles have been studied extensively in India, where contemporary Indian culture juxtaposes traditionaland modern ideologies. When male and female Indian and American university students were asked whatqualities women in their culture should and should not possess, Indian students expressed more traditionalviews than American students. Women in both groups were more modern, or liberal, than were men(Agarwal, Lester, & Dhawan, 1992; Rao & Rao, 1985). University women with nontraditional sex roleattitudes came from nuclear families, had educated mothers, and were in professional or career-orienteddisciplines (Ghadially & Kazi, 1979).Similarly, education and professional managerial work are strong predictors of sex role attitudes for bothJapanese and American women (Suzuki, 1991). American women with jobs, no matter what sort, had moreegalitarian attitudes than women without jobs. In contrast, Japanese women with career-oriented professional jobs were more egalitarian than all other women, with or without jobs.Gibbons, Stiles, and Shkodriani (1991) capitalized on a unique research opportunity and studied attitudestoward gender and family roles among adolescents from 46 different countries attending schools in the Netherlands. Countries of origin were grouped into two categories based on Hofstede's cultural values: thewealthier, more individualistic countries and the less wealthy, more collectivistic countries. Students fromthe second group of countries had more traditional attitudes than students from the first group of countries,and girls generally responded less traditionally than boys.In a number of sex role ideology studies, Americans served as a reference group and were usually found to be more liberal, suggesting that Americans may be unusual in this respect. However, Williams and Best(1990b) did not find this to be true in their 14-country study of sex role ideology with university students.The most modern ideologies were found in European countries (the Netherlands, Germany, Finland,England, Italy). The United States was in the middle of the distribution, and the most traditional ideologieswere found in African and Asian countries (Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Japan, Malaysia). Generally, womenhad more modern views than men, but not in all countries (e.g., Malaysia and Pakistan). However, there washigh correspondence between men's and women's scores in a given country. Overall, the effect of culturewas greater than the effect of gender.