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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Report on EASP Meeting: Gender Roles in the Future? Theoretical Foundations and Future Research Directions

26.07.2017, by Sibylle Classen in meeting report

June 24th-26th, 2017 at Seminaris Campus Hotel, Berlin, Germany; Organizers Wendy Wood and Sabine Sczesny

Participants of the Gender Roles Conference
Participants of the Gender Roles Conference

This EASP Small Group Meeting explored new directions in the study of gender roles, a topic that has long engaged social and personality psychologists. The conferences received also financial support from the SPSP. Research interest in gender and sex differences continues to rise in scientific fields, especially given the opportunity to integrate new developments in biology with the social mechanics of gender. This interest is driven in part by the changing roles of women in world politics and economics, as evident in the increasing impact of traditional religions in many parts of the world, the falling birthrate in Europe, and the challenges of women refugees across Europe. Gender itself is currently undergoing societal redefinition as the two primary sex categories are being expanded to encompass sexual identities and transgendered status. The meeting built on Alice Eagly’s foundational research on gender roles in new, innovative ways. The meeting was designed to inspire the next generation of research addressing gender roles. It challenged social and personality psychologists studying gender to integrate multiple levels of analysis in their theories and to incorporate scholarship from across disciplines.

Our conference goals were:

  • To feature the most current, rigorous, and innovative research on the psychology of gender
  • To integrate new developments in gender research, such as the evolutionary-biology model of the steroid/peptide theory of social bonds with foundational research on gender roles
  • To disseminate empirically driven design insights to students and practitioners in the field
  • To create a forum for collaboration and discussion among individuals at a variety of career levels

Altogether 74 researcher from 19 countries (92% women, 8% men) participated: Australia (3), Austria (2), Belgium (5), Canada (2), France (2), Germany (10), Hungary (1), Ireland (2), India (1), Israel (2), Italy (1), Netherlands (3), Norway (2), Poland (2), Sweden (4), Switzerland (10), Spain (3), United Kingdom (10), United States (9). Of these 35 were Diploma / PhD students, 19 were Postdoctoral fellows, and 20 were Faculty members.

The conference began with an opening address by Alice Eagly that highlighted the current status of gender roles research and the challenges of integrating biology and psychology in explaining men’s and women’s behavior. Her talk, along with recognition of her contribution to the field, was introduced by 7 of her former students and collaborators (Sabine Sczesny, Linda Carli, Mary Kite, Janine Bosak, Anne Koenig, Claartje Vinkenburg, and Wendy Wood). Over the next 2 days, the program was diverse, including longer (up to 30 minute) talks, poster sessions, and blitz talks of 5 to 10 minutes. Specifically, the longer talks included one on social roles and stereotypes, 4 talks in a session on leadership and career, 2 talks in a session on gender equality, 2 talks on gender/feminist identity and identity threat, and two idea talks on intersectionality (see the program for details) The blitz talks included a session of 4 talks on men in communal roles, a session of 5 talks on gender stereotypes and sexism, and a session of 4 talks on gender/feminist identity and identity threat. The posters included one session of 13 posters on gender equality, one session of 13 posters on gender stereotypes and sexism, and one session of 11 posters on leadership and career. The conference also provided attendees and speakers with several informal opportunities to engage in discussion and exchange. The conference ended with a discussion and integrations of conference themes by Alice Eagly and Sabine Sczesny.

The research reported in the conference will be compiled into a special issue of the journal Frontiers in Psychology on the topic of gender roles. The editors of this special issue will be Sabine Sczesny and Alice H. Eagly. Through this mechanism, we will disseminate research insights from the conference and continue discussions initiated in that venue.

Some of the key themes to emerge from the conference were the need for a more interdisciplinary approach that encompasses both biological and social perspectives. The conference developed the recognition that social scientists are talking to each other too much to the exclusion of other disciplines, including developmental and neuro-endocrinological perspectives. The conference was useful in that it identified the ways in which gender researchers tend to focus on similar levels of analysis without considering the broader perspectives in the field.

  1. Gender concepts are expanding beyond binary consideration of male versus female. However, these new ways of thinking are only now being integrated into theorizing and empirical research, and the field is still working towards a more complete understanding of the multiplicity of gender concepts.
  2. Sexism and discrimination continue to be a significant concern of research, as researchers identify the psychological barriers that women face in achieving equality in many fields.
  3. The understanding of gender is a fundamental component of national cultures, as men and women balance work and family roles within their own country. The talks revealed shared theoretical frameworks as well as the unique features of different countries’ gender relations.
  4. Gender is embedded within specific social settings. A great deal of interest is currently focused on understanding women’s roles within the workplace.
  5. Researchers need to develop more theoretical analyses of intersectionality, given its importance to human experience in general and gender roles in particular.
  6. The conference was largely comprised of female researchers, and a broader focus of research might bring more men into studying gender research.

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