Tech-savvy men and caring women: Middle school students’ gender stereotypes predict interest in tech-education

Una Tellhed, Fredrik Björklund, Kalle Kallio Strand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The labor market is strongly gender segregated with few women working in the tech sector (e.g. IT) and few men working in the care sector (e.g. nursing). We tested the hypothesis that middle school students strongly associate technology with men and caregiving with women, and that this relates to girls’ lower interest in tech-focused educations. We measured technology/caregiving gender stereotypes with implicit (the Implicit Association Test) and explicit (self-report) measures in a sample of Swedish middle school students (n = 873). The results supported the hypothesis, and corroborate Eccles’s expectancy value theory, which suggests that gender stereotypes cause barriers for women to make career choices which suits them as individuals. A sample of middle school teachers (n = 86) showed even stronger implicit gender stereotypes than the students. This is worrying since teachers may unintentionally convey gender stereotypes in their teaching. Unexpectedly, the middle school girls with a foreign background showed no implicit gender stereotypes, which we discuss in relation to the gender-equality paradox. We suggest that to fulfill the recruitment needs of an increasingly digitalized world, the tech-industry and other stakeholders should put effort into counteracting the stereotype that technology is for men.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-325
Number of pages19
JournalSex Roles: A Journal of Research
Early online date2023 Mar 11
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Mar 11

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)

Free keywords

  • Implicit gender stereotypes
  • Explicit gender stereotypes
  • Technology
  • Caregiving
  • Implicit association test
  • Expectancy value theory
  • Social role theory
  • Adolescents
  • Teachers
  • Interest
  • STEM
  • HEED


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