“I’m interested in people’s beliefs about how the world should work and how the world does work,” says Mark Brandt of DePaul University, the author of the new study. For this study on sexism, he used data from an international survey conducted between 2005 and 2007. The survey included these two statements: “On the whole, men make better political leaders than women do” and “On the whole, men make better business executives than women do.” He also used a United Nations measure of gender inequality, from the year the sexism question was asked and from 2009.
Brandt found that gender inequality increased in countries where more people were sexist at the earlier time point. “Over this time period, countries that started with higher levels of sexism generally have higher levels of inequality at the second time point, controlling for initial time point,” he says.
“You could get the impression that having sexist beliefs, or prejudiced beliefs more generally, is just an individual thing—‘my beliefs don’t impact you,’” Brandt says. But this study shows that isn’t true. If individual people in a society are sexist, men and women in that society become less equal.
“Gender inequality is such a tough beast to crack because there are so many contributing factors,” Brandt says. Policies can contribute to inequality—and some countries have insured some measure of equality by mandating that some number of seats in the legislature be reserved for women. But this study suggests that if the goal is increased equality, individual attitudes have to change.
For more information about this study, please contact: Mark J. Brandt at email@example.com.
The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article “Sexism and Gender Inequality Across 57 Societies” and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Divya Menon at 202-293-9300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.