How Dozens of Languages Help Build Gender Stereotypes

This same method of burrowing into texts—more formally called the search for distributional semantics—can also provide a framework for analyzing psychological attitudes, including gender stereotypes that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in scientific and technical fields. Studies in English have shown, for example, that the word “woman” often appears close to “home” and “family,” whereas “man” is frequently paired with “job” and “money.”

So in most languages, there’s a strong relationship between words related to a man and words related to a career—and, at the same time, words related to women and words related to family. We found that this relationship was present in nearly all the languages that we looked at. And so that gives us a measure of the extent to which there’s a gender stereotype in the statistics of the 25 different languages we looked at.

By Gary Stix, Scientific American

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