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Vocational aspirations and gender: Fighting the normative impact of language and stereotypes

English title Vocational aspirations and gender: Fighting the normative impact of language and stereotypes
Applicant Gygax Pascal
Number 188841
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Département de Psychologie Université de Fribourg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.09.2020 - 31.08.2024
Approved amount 476'838.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Education and learning sciences, subject-specific education

Keywords (6)

Gender stereotypes; Gender; Gender bias; Grammatical gender; Gender asymetries; Vocational aspirations

Lay Summary (French)

Le projet tente d'examiner des facteurs permettant d'ouvrir des populations adolescentes à un plus large éventail d'aspirations vocationnelles, en dépassant surtout les stéréotypes de genre.
Lay summary

Au cours des 50 dernières années, de nombreuses professions se sont diversifiées en Suisse. Cependant, comme dans d'autres pays européens, les choix de métiers chez les enfants restent très stéréotypés, amenant les femmes à être surtout présentes dans les secteurs de la santé, de la protection sociale et de l'éducation et les hommes dans les professions techniques et d'ingénierie. Dans le présent projet, nous essayons de comprendre les facteurs qui déterminent les choix vocationnels d’adolescentes et adolescents entre 12 et 18 ans, en espérant ainsi déterminer des manières de diversifier les choix de ces personnes. Plus spécifiquement, nous nous intéressons à l’effet de différentes formes langagières – par exemple l’utilisation de la forme masculine en français – ainsi que l’effet des stéréotypes de genre sur la manière dont les enfant se projettent dans différents métiers. Si l'une ou l'autre des stratégies langagières testées dans le cadre de ce projet se révélait fructueuse, les résultats de notre recherche auraient un impact pratique important pour ouvrir les populations adolescentes à un plus large éventail d'aspirations vocationnelles.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.10.2019

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Project partner

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
118301 Gender representations in Language: A project on the interaction of the generic masculine and stereotypical information in constructing a mental representation of gender 01.11.2007 Project funding (Div. I-III)
143573 Gender representation in language: The onset of grammar-stereotype interplay in toddlerhood 01.11.2012 Project funding (Div. I-III)


In the past 50 years, many professions have become more gender diversified in Switzerland ( However, as in other European countries, there is still substantial gender segregation, with women dominating in the health, welfare and education sector and men in technical and engineering professions ( A proxy for gender-typed vocational aspirations are gendered interests (Lippa, 1998), which could be understood as internalized gender stereotypes associated with occupations, i.e. expectations of what would be a (gender) adequate occupation. If interests are fed by stereotypical expectations, the risk is that career choices are less (or not) informed by a person’s potential. Our previous research program has documented how linguistic choices impact gender expectations (for reviews see Gabriel & Gygax, 2016; Sato, Öttl, Gabriel, & Gygax, 2017). Grounding the present project on our work in the past decade, we now target gender-typed vocational aspirations, and how linguistic presentations of occupations contribute to gendered interests in adolescents. Most crucially, we focus on adolescents, as the transition from adolescence to adulthood is an important stage in vocational development in which gender stereotyped perceptions of occupations (i.e., attributes that females or males supposedly have) play an essential role (Gottfredson, 2005; Lerner & Steinberg, 2009). Our research project is particularly important, as research on development of vocational aspirations has shown that adolescents (between 12-18 years of age) are particularly sensitive to gender information in occupational titles and use this information to make gendered inferences about the occupations. In previous research with French-speaking adolescents, these inferences have been linked to dimensions, such as perceived success (Vervecken, Gygax, Gabriel, Guillod, & Hannover, 2015), motivation, confidence and self-efficacy judgements (Chatard, Guimond, & Martinot, 2005). As will be outlined below, the present project - grounded on these lines of research - seeks to further the state of research by including a broader age range of adolescence, by comparing the impact of gender information in occupational titles from a grammatical gender language (French) with those from a natural gender language (English), and by adding the social concept of belonging as a relevant dimension of vocational aspirations. The present project extends previous research in that we investigate the impact of stereotype (Workpackage A - WPA) and language manipulations (Workpackage B - WPB and Workpackage C - WPC) not only on adolescents’ vocational self-efficacy, but also on their anticipated vocational belonging. Our theoretical rationale builds on the assumption that the confidence of being competent to pursue a specific training or education as a cognitive component might not suffice to spark sufficient interest, but that it needs to be accompanied by the affective expectation of belonging in a future professional group. Essentially, we present two work packages in French (WPA and WPB), and one in English (WPC). The former two work packages are concerned with the influence of stereotypical information on different attitudes towards occupations (WPA), and the influence of language form on motivation and self-projection (i.e., projecting oneself onto the future) onto different occupations (WPB). Selected experiments will be run in parallel in England (WPC) to check for the generalizability of the results across languages and to explore potential differences between a language (French) that marks referent gender grammatically (masculine/feminine) with a language (English) that does not mark referent gender grammatically. We also wish to examine the extent that pair forms in English (e.g., female and male teachers) - which are rather unusual - add gender cues that modify the way these occupations are perceived. If any of the strategies tested in this project would prove successful, the results of our research would have a strong practical impact for opening children`s and adolescents’ career paths to a wider range of options. Essentially, in this project, we question the relative career choices that adolescents actually have by showing that the way we portray occupations to them, may have a great impact on the way they like and see themselves in these occupations.