What Are Gender Role Stereotypes?

Gender role stereotypes are culturally and socially defined beliefs and perceptions about the emotions and behavior of women and men. Gender role stereotyping occurs whenever people are expected to behave a certain way or perform certain tasks solely based upon their gender.

Stereotypes can be positive or negative, but they seldom communicate precise information about an individual. It is widely believed that gender role stereotypes directly affect the development of gender identity.

Traditionally, the male stereotypical role is to be the breadwinner. He is also expected to be career focused, courageous, independent, competitive and assertive. The female stereotypical role is to get married and have children. She is also expected to always put her family’s welfare first and be sympathetic, nurturing, caring, compassionate and loving. Gender stereotyping poses certain dangers; they can impede individual creativity and expression, as well as prevent professional and personal growth.

Evolutionary theories of gender development are based on the genetic differences between women and men. Functionalists believe that women and men have evolved differently in order to fulfill the complementary and different functions. Sociobiologists suggest that the behavioral differences stem from the different reproductive and sexual strategies, which have evolved to ensure men and women are able to reproduce and pass on their genes.