In the wake of the Sky Sports sexism row, YouGov investigates just how far we associate certain occupations with men or womenby Peter Kellner / February 23, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
When football commentators Andy Gray and Richard Keys parted company with Sky Sports in January after making sexist remarks, two reactions were common: on the one hand, that their comments were wholly unacceptable, and on the other, that what they had said off-air was no more than common banter.
This month’s YouGov survey for Prospect seeks to illuminate these issues by testing how far we associate various occupations with men or women. We asked: “If you had to choose someone to do each of the following, would you prefer a man or a woman, or would you not mind whether you chose a man or a woman?”
The results are encouraging for those who wish to banish gender stereotypes. For each of the 14 occupations we chose, at least 77 per cent said they didn’t mind. In some cases, such as MP or hospital doctor, the figure approaches 90 per cent.
Can we trust these results—or are some people hiding their true prejudices? I believe that the figures are real. One of the advantages of online research is that respondents have anonymity: they do not have to admit socially unacceptable thoughts to an interviewer. Past experience shows that people are more honest in online polls on issues that range from tax to racism.
So the big picture is that most of Britain has moved beyond gender stereotypes. But there is a significant minority who do associate some occupations with particular jobs. Around one in five—getting on for 10m Britons—think receptionists and hospital nurses should be women and captains of jumbo jets and football referees (one of the causes of the Gray/Keys saga) should be men. Detailed analysis of our data shows that 15 per cent of the electorate hold three or all four of these views.
Who are these lingering sexists? They can be found in all parts of Britain and in all social classes. But two-thirds of them are men and—perhaps surprisingly—they are found in well above average numbers among the under 25s. Let’s call this phenomenon the…