My pleasure. Actually, I got distracted when I looked up the link to Hidden Brain — there something else that got triggered when I read your point about language.

In English, most professions and roles are referred to by nouns that are (at least implicitly) not gender specific. A teacher, a writer, a psychologist, a driver, a politician, a shop assistant, a singer, a director, an engineer, a doctor… we can easily picture either a woman or a man with each of these. Not so in my native language (Dutch). The vast majority of such nouns have masculine and feminine versions, respectively: leraar/lerares (or onderwijzer/onderwijzeres for primary school teachers), schrijver/schrijfster, psycholoog/psychologe, bestuurder/bestuurster, politicus/politica, verkoper/verkoopster, zanger/zangeres.

For director, Dutch has a bit of a problem: the head of a school could be a directeur or a directrice, but a company director or even director as a job title would remain ‘male’. Even more so for engineers — there is only the term ingenieur (no ingenieuse :-)). When I was little, some people referred to a female doctor as dokteres, but that has become obsolete.

I wonder to what extent this affects the general perception of professional life, and potentially reinforces gender stereotyping — primarily male. As further evidence I adduce the word verpleegster — the standard term for a nurse is feminine. (Amusing is that in Dutch there is a common masculine equivalent: verpleger, while English needs to rely on ‘male nurse’, to combat the strong implicit stereotype that nurses are female :-).

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Accidental behavioural economist in search of wisdom. Uses insights from (behavioural) economics in organization development. On Twitter as @koenfucius

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