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The Bem Sex-role Inventory

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Throughout the UK the number of women in the teaching profession outnumber the amount of men considerably. It is important to tackle this gender imbalance as it can be discouraging for young men in education and it can also negatively impact students as male teachers present certain characteristics and assets which are needed in the school environment. To address this issue, we must consider the reasons for this imbalance and challenge societal attitudes towards the teaching profession. It is through social categorisation that we can respond to someone, and although the sex of an individual is critical in deciding whether they are a boy or a girl it is small compared to social influences.

According to Bern, 1981 male and female roles are exposed to children by the culture in which they live. In the earliest stages of their social development, children will alter their behaviour to align with the gender norms of their culture. Bern anticipated that the cognitive development of a child, combined with societal influences massively impact the schema, or the patterns of thought that dictate male and female traits. Gender Schemas have an impact on not only how an individual processes information, but on the beliefs and attitudes that direct behaviour which is “gender appropriate”.

For this reason, we must acknowledge that those who live in traditional cultures are under the impression that a woman’s role lies in the raising and caring of her children, while a man’s role is in work and industry. In contrast, a young woman raised in a culture which is progressive may decide not to get married and to pursue a career instead. With nonconformity, individuals become subjects of societal disapproval and they often feel pressured to face rejection or even alter their behaviour for those who disapprove of them.

One of the most widely used psychological assessment tools in the world is known as the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BRSI). The questionnaire listed sixty different words that were either masculine, feminine, or gender neutral. On completing the test, respondents were required to rate how strongly they could identify with each characteristic. As opposed to categorising people as masculine or feminine, the list presents both traits as part of a continuum. An individual could rank high on one gender or low on another or, alternately, rank high on both masculine and feminine traits.

The media has also had a massive contribution to how our perceptions of gender have formed. Research carried out between the 1970s and 1980s emphasised the link which exists between children’s perceptions of gender and television advertisements. Kacerguis and Adams (1979) have suggested that “exposure of children to gender activities through playing with toys may be a source of influence on the type of occupation selected in later life.” Contrary to this belief (Lemish, 2007) would argue that although television may enhance existing attitudes about gender roles, there are other influences which create those attitudes to begin with. For example, parents indoctrinate what is gender appropriate as they are less enthusiastic about their children playing with gender neutral toys and children are likely to feel either encouraged or discouraged by their parent’s response.

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The Bem Sex-role Inventory. (2018, December 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 12, 2021, from
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