The nature-versus-nurture debate regarding gender differences has been around for quite some time, and as it turns out, there is still no public consensus on the topic. In a new survey, the Pew Research Center asked Americans why they think differences exist between men and women — and most men and women have highly contrasting thoughts.
The survey found that while women credit societal expectations (nurture) for the differences between genders, men tend to credit biological differences (nature).
The Pew Research Center asked participants a slew of questions about topics including expectations, pressures, and what society values, for both men and women. Participants had staggeringly different answers for men than they had for women.
For example, the survey asked participants what pressures they think men and women face the most. Seventy-six percent said men face pressure to support their family. Sixty-eight percent said men are pressured to be successful at work. Over 70 percent of those surveyed said women face pressure to be an involved parent and to be physically attractive. In stark contrast, only 27 percent of participants say men face pressure to be attractive.
The survey also asked what characteristics participants think society values most in women and in men. Regarding women, 35 percent of participants said physical attractiveness, and 30 percent said nurturing and empathy. Regarding men, about 33 percent said honesty and morality, 23 percent said professional or financial success. 19 percent said ambition or leadership, and 19 percent said strength or toughness.
There were also some interesting findings regarding skills in the workplace. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said “men and women are basically similar when it comes to the things they are good at in the workplace.” Interestingly, men and women expressed similar views on this topic.
And as the most compelling part of the survey revealed, most women said societal expectations shape gender differences, while most of the men blamed the differences on biology.
In order to move closer to equality, namely in the workplace, it’s important to understand that society (and the way society has shaped our perceptions) perpetuates gender inequity. As Bustle notes, the gender wage gap and men’s dominance in leadership roles are more indicative of society’s views on women than of women’s actual potential.
It’s also important to note that this study just focused on perceptions of men and women, and did not ask any questions about non-binary people. It’s important for surveys to be inclusive — especially when dealing with topics like gender inequity.