Rutgers University Study Finds Stereotypic Images of Gender Roles in the Workforce Persist Online

A new study authored by four scholars at the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, finds that stereotypical images of gender roles in the workforce remain prevalent on social media and other digital platforms.

The scholars searched the internet for online images of men and women in four professions – librarian, nurse, computer programmer, and civil engineer. The conducted research on four digital media platforms: Twitter, NYTimes.com, Wikipedia, and Shutterstock. They also compared the search results to the gender representation of each occupation according to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The results showed gender stereotypes and biases to be prevalent. Women were overrepresented as librarians and nurses and underrepresented as computer programmers and civil engineers.

“Gender bias limits the ability of people to select careers that may suit them and impedes fair practices, pay equity and equality,” said co-author Mary Chayko, a sociologist and interdisciplinary teaching professor at the School of Communication and Information. “Understanding the prevalence and patterns of bias and stereotypes in online images is essential, and can help us challenge, and hopefully someday break, these stereotypes.”

Dr. Chayko is a graduate of Seton Hall University in New Jersey. She holds master’s degrees in sociology and counseling psychology and a Ph.D. in sociology, all from Rutgers University.

The full study, “Female Librarians and Male Computer Programmers? Gender Bias in Occupational Images on Digital Media Platforms,” was published on the website of The Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. It may be accessed here.

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