Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Occupational Interests: Evidence of Androgen Influences

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Occupational Interests: Evidence of Androgen Influences

Article excerpt

Gender and sexual orientation are both associated with occupational interests. In general, the interests of homosexual males (relative to heterosexual males) resemble those of heterosexual females. To a lesser extent, homosexual females express occupational preferences gravitating toward those of heterosexual males rather than heterosexual females. The present study was undertaken to explore theoretical explanations for this three-variable relationship. Two theories were considered: social role theory and evolutionary neuroandrogenic (ENA) theory. While both theories lead to the expectation of gender differences in occupational interests, only ENA theory went on to predict that sexual orientation would also be associated with occupational interests. Evidence supporting these predictions was found, prompting us to test ENA theory more deeply by examining how various androgen-promoted physical traits - e.g., muscularity, physical strength, and low-deep voice - are related to occupational interests and sexual orientation. Again, consistent with theoretical expectations, in both males and females, most androgen-promoted physical traits were positively correlated with male-typical occupational interests and male-typical sexual orientation, especially for males. Overall, this study supports the view that testosterone and other androgens influence the relationships between, gender, sexual orientation, and occupational interests.

Key Words: Gender; Sexual orientation; Occupational interests; Social role theory; Evolutionary neuroandrogenic theory; Androgens (testosterone).

It is axiomatic to say that men and women gravitate toward different occupations in terms of both preferences and actual choices (reviewed by Ellis et al., 2008). Although the research pertaining to links between sexual orientation and occupational interests is more limited, it too has documented substantial associations, with homosexuals tending to prefer gender-atypical occupations (Chung & Harmon Lenore, 1994; Ellis et al., 2012; Lippa, 2002, 2008).

Figure 1 represents how gender, sexual orientation, and occupational interests appear to be interrelated according to a recent study (Ellis et al., 2012). At the bottom of Figure 1, occupational interests are shown ranging between "highly male-typical" (to the left) and "highly female-typical" (to the right). One can see that occupational interests that would be deemed gender-atypical are much more prevalent among homosexuals than among heterosexuals, especially for males. In other words, male homosexuals are much more likely than female homosexuals to express interests in occupations that are gender atypical. Unlike male homosexuals, female homosexuals only expressed occupational interests that were basically "gender neutral" rather than being gender atypical.

Two theories of gender differences in occupational interests

With the three-variable relationships shown in Figure 1 in mind, we sought to identify the best theoretical explanation for these patterns. In doing so, we identified two theories of sex differences in occupational interests. One is the long-standing social role theory and the other is a newly developed biologically-based theory, both of which are described below.

Social Role Theory

At least since the writings of Margaret Mead (1935/1950, 1949/1968), most sex differences in behavior have been attributed to sex role training (Lueptow et al, 2001). Based on her observations of various preliterate Pacific cultures, Mead argued that average differences in the behavior of males and females were all but exclusively due to sociocultural influences.

By the 1990s, this extreme environmentalist perspective had taken the form of various closely related theories, collectively known as social role theory (Eagly & Wood, 1999; Eagly et al, 2000; Eccles, 1994; Etaugh & Liss, 1992; Fausto- Sterling, 1992; Langlois & Downs, 1980; Williams & Subich, 2006). …

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