‘Gender-equality paradox’: Why are differences stronger in wealthier, gender-equal nations?

difference
Image credit: CBE International

In Sweden, girls are just as likely to go to school and university as boys are. Women make up a greater proportion of the country’s professional and technical workers than any other country in the world. And their representation in the country’s politics is among the world’s best. But when it comes to personality tests, Swedish men and women are worlds apart.

Malaysia sits toward the opposite end of the scale: despite ranking among the world’s lowest for political empowerment of women and lagging when it comes to women’s health and survival, men and women end up looking similar in those same personality tests. What gives?

This fascinating finding—dubbed the gender-equality paradox—isn’t new, but two recent papers report fresh details. In a paper published in Science [October 18], Armin Falk and Johannes Hermle report that gender differences in preferences like risk-taking, patience, and trust were more exaggerated in wealthier and more gender-equal countries. And in a recent paper in the International Journal of Psychology, Erik Mac Giolla and Petri Kajonius provide more detail on the original paradox.

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“[W]hen men and women are free to express individual characteristics in more unconstrained societies, sex differences may be enlarged,” write Mac Giolla and Kajonius.

Falk and Hermle have a slightly different argument: [when] basic material needs are fulfilled, they write, it paves the way for self-expression, including expression of gender.

Read full, original post: Why figuring out what’s behind a big gender paradox won’t be easy

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