Gender Differences in Vocational Interests: A Large, National Study and Comparison to U.S. Occupations



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Today’s workforce is divided in gender representation in several critical ways including the lack of women in math intensive STEM fields and the lack of men in teaching and medical fields. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of gender differences in vocational interests and compares these differences to the gendering of the workforce. Using a large and diverse sample of the U.S population (N = 1,283,110), we calculated the size of gender differences across all thirty basic interests and compare these differences to corresponding work categories. We also tested for moderators of gender differences including age, ethnicity, educational attainment, and year. Out of the 30 basic interests, 1 had a large effect size, 5 had a medium effect size, 15 had a small effect size, and 9 had a negligible size. Additionally, there are occupations where there should be either more women (science, technology, & math) or more men (teaching & counseling) based on interests. Results also showed that the pattern of gender differences varied across educational attainment and age, such that gender differences were the largest (a) in individuals with less than a college degree and (b) among late adolescence and young adults. Overall, these results have three main implications: the need for targeted interventions aimed at improving gender representation, the need for associate’s and trade school programs to become less gendered, and the need for interventions to begin earlier. We conclude by presenting several, data-driven recommendations for gender equality interventions.



gender, interests