Perceived to be incompetent, but not a risk: Why men are evaluated as less suitable for childcare work than women

Sczesny, Sabine; Nater, Christa; Haines, Serena (2021). Perceived to be incompetent, but not a risk: Why men are evaluated as less suitable for childcare work than women. Journal of applied social psychology, 52(8), pp. 693-703. Wiley 10.1111/jasp.12845

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Men are widely underrepresented in early childhood education and care worldwide. Professional childcare is often believed to require communal qualities typically associated with the female gender role, like being sensitive to others' needs. Men's underrepresentation in childcare work likely occurs as a result of the perceived incongruity between communal qualities required for childcare work and agentic qualities associated with men and the male gender role. Using a between- subjects design, this research examined how personality traits (communal vs. agentic) of people interested in early childcare and their gender (woman vs. man) affect evaluations of their suitability for childcare work. This online experiment further investigated the potential underlying mechanisms—ascribed childcare competence and perceived risk of perpetrating child abuse—and tested whether these explanations contribute to men's less favorable evaluations. Results showed that participants ( N = 242) evaluated the communal candidate as more suitable for childcare work than the agentic candidate, and the male candidate as less suitable than the female candidate. Structural equation modeling showed that lower ascribed childcare competence, but not greater perceived risk of perpetrating sexual or physical child abuse, contributed to men's lower perceived suitability. This research provides support for the reasoning that persisting gender stereotypes can hinder men's entry into childcare work, as people discount men's competence and ability to care for children. Moreover, this research suggests that incongruity theories are also valid in the context of men pursuing traditionally female-dominated communal roles. Practical implications are discussed in relation to strategies for increasing gender diversity in childcare work.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Social Neuroscience and Social Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Sczesny, Sabine, Nater, Christa, Haines, Serena


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology








Christa Nater

Date Deposited:

16 Dec 2021 16:22

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:55

Publisher DOI:





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