Views on masculinity differ depending on many factors such as race, culture, class, place, and time. In OECD countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, traits traditionally seen as masculine (such as aggression and self-assuredness) are also seen as beneficial in the business world. Research suggests that these traditional views of masculinity have perpetuated bias and inequality in the economy, leading to “toxic masculinity.” Further, as we expand beyond the gender binary of male and female and push for equality among all genders, our understanding of masculinity, and its role in the economy, is shifting.
Below, we’ve curated a collection of our best research and insights on this subject.
Masculinity is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles typically associated with the male gender. Our views of masculinity are socially constructed, and masculinity itself is not based on biological differences between the sexes. Due to implicit biases, we are more likely to associate masculinity with work and careers and femininity with home and family. These stereotypes are constraining for people of any gender.
Our views of masculinity, particularly at work, impact how everyone is treated. Men who display more “feminine” traits, such as care for family, and women who display more “masculine” traits, such as authoritativeness, can both be socially sanctioned. For example, research shows that female managers who are assertive in meetings, a traditionally masculine quality, are viewed negatively by their colleagues; whereas assertive male managers would receive praise and respect. Increasingly, people are recognizing that achieving gender equality will require societies and organizations to address the constraints imposed by norms of masculinity as well as implicit bias against women.
Ideas of masculinity can shape organizational policy and practice. For example, the “ideal worker” image is characterized as a man with masculine behaviors, such as prioritizing career over family and exercising dominate leadership. One result of the persistence of the “ideal worker” image, in particular, is that men do not feel at liberty to take advantage of family-friendly policies in the workplace. Therefore, the question is: How do we re-evaluate what the “ideal worker” looks like in order to benefit everyone?
Supportive work-family policies have become increasingly more common but evidence indicates that these policies are far more likely to influence women’s behavior and preferences than men’s. This paper explores how men’s gender ideologies and their perceptions of cultural norms shape their response to supportive work-family policies. The research shows that men’s responses to these policies are shaped less by their own personal beliefs, and by their perceptions of what is accepted and expected by their male peers.
Jamil Jivani on “Why Young Men: Rage, Race and the Crisis of Identity”
Why is masculinity so difficult to talk about? In this video, Jamil Jivani, author of “Why Young Men: Rage, Race and the Crisis of Identity,” emphasizes that instead of “pushing away” men (particularly young men) from the conversation about gender and masculinity, we need to actively engage them. Learn more about this event and Jivani’s ideas on masculinity.
Also, check out this podcast episode featuring a panel discussion on “Male is a Gender Too.”