ATTITUDES TOWARD SEX-ROLES REHANA GHADIALLY AND K. A. KAZI The role...
ATTITUDES TOWARD SEX-ROLES
REHANA GHADIALLY AND K. A. KAZI
The role played by a male and female in society have been clearly delineated. The pre-
sent study explored the attitudes of college students toward sex-roles with the help of a ques-
tionnaire. The findings indicate that college women are more egalitarian than college men
in their attitudes towards sex-roles. It would seem that a college student with non-traditional
sex-role attitudes is likely to have had English as the medium of instruction in school, comes
from a nuclear family with an income higher than Rs. 1000 per month and is not very
religious. In addition women students with non-traditional sex-role attitudes are likely to be
in professional or career-oriented disciplines and have educated mothers.
Dr. (Ms) R. Ghadially is Lecturer in Psychology in the Department of Humanities and
Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Powai, Bombay 76 and Mr. K. A. Kazi
was a student of the same Institute.
Introduction
It is quite clear from the literature that
traditionally personality differences are
In his book "Everyone was brave" posited for both the sexes. In addition, the
William O'Neill (1971) asserts, "The lesson arena for action is the home for women
of history so far is that women cannot and the world for men. A shift away from
gain equality regardless of the methods stereotyped thinking about masculinity and
used to obtain". This argues for the persis-
femininity, a greater participation of women
tence of the sex-role system. However, in the public sphere accompanied by men's
though sex-roles are deeply entrenched orientation towards the domestic sphere
across cultures and across time, it does not can be taken as indicating changes in sex-
imply that they are natural and inherent. roles.
Events such as world wars, major social
The purpose of the present study was
movements and governmental policy have to explore attitudes towards sex-roles and
facilitated changing of sex-roles, more to see if there are any systematic
specifically the female role.
differences between the backgrounds of
Several authors have summarized the subjects with traditional and non-traditional
descriptions of male and female sex-roles in attitudes.
the following way: Females are supposed
to inhibit both aggressive and sexual urges.
METHOD
They are to be nurturant and passive, to Subjects
cultivate attractiveness and to maintain an
Subjects were 193 male and 286 female
emotionally responsive, socially poised, college students. They were drawn from
friendly posture with others. In sharp nine different colleges and represented the
contrast men are to be aggressive, indepen-
disciplines of arts, commerce, engineering,
dent, and suppressive of strong emotions law, medicine, home science, and pure
(Weitz, 1977 Parson and Bales, 1955). sciences. The mean age of the subjects was
According to the National Committee 22.0 years. The mean number of years
on the Status of Women in India (1975) of formal education was 13.9 years.
a woman is primarily associated with the
home, responsible for domestic chores and
her typical roles are those of a housewife Procedure
and mother. The role of men is seen as
The subjects were administered a
primarily outside of home.
questionnaire part of which dealt with

66
REHANA GHADIALLY AND K. A. KAZI
perception of sex-roles and family and to their changing ideas about women at
educational background. The questionnaire work. Women may not only work but even
was adapted from the one originally excel at it. The ideas have also changed
developed and used in a cross cultural in the sphere of household responsibilities.
study at Rutgers University.* The mean The modernity in these two areas viz., job
score on twenty-one Likert type items situations and household responsibilities
with a minimum score of 1 indicating a was higher than in the realm of personality
traditional position and a maximum score characteristics. Though the woman is
of 4 indicating a non-traditional position being granted greater concessions she is
formed an index of overall sex-role moder-
still seen as possessing a different per-
nity. The items were further classified into sonality make up. Women's two roles —
3 broad classes measuring attitudes towards one at work and one at home are inter-
different spheres of sex-role behaviour. connected such that changes in one will
These spheres were job situation (5 items) have impact on the other. Her greater
personality traits (8 items), and household participation outside the home is bound
work (8 items). The classification of items to be accompanied with a decrease in
was done on the basis of agreement of household responsibilities.
two judges out of three.
Comparing the scores of the two sexes,
For purposes of sex-role modernity, the one observes a difference in the attitudes
data obtained from the total sample has of men and women towards sex-roles
been analysed and discussed. In order to (Table 1). Women are significantly more
relate sex-role modernity to family and egalitarian than men. The findings confirm
educational background, the total sample to the commonly held view that men are
was divided into three groups of more traditional and less flexible than
approximately 160 each. Those with scores women on the issue of sexroles. Findings
above 2.63 were classified as non-tradi-
of a study on attitudes towards women's
tional whereas those below 2.34 were role in society indicate that college men
classified as traditional. The remaining hold more traditional attitudes towards
subjects (with scores between 2.34 and 2.63) women's role in society than do college
were dropped in order to emphasize women (Hawley, 1971). In trying to assess
differences between the traditional and non-
attitudes towards marriage roles among
traditional subjects.
Indian college students it was found that
women expect to play a more egalitarian
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
role within marriage viz. participating with
her husband in decision-making and
Sex-Role Modernity
pursuing economic activities outside the
home. The college men were more
The mean overall sex-role modernity of dominant and authoritarian (Ghadially,
the total sample was 2.61 (Table 1). This 1977). A greater shared role attitude on
score represents a considerable shift in the the part of women as compared to men
attitudes of college students from the may be due to several reasons. The tradi-
stereotyped pattern to a more egalitarian tional role being too restricted, she seeks
one. The scores of the sample in the three greater freedom and a broadened life
areas indicate that this shift is largely due style. More positively, women would be
* See Appendix.

ATTITUDES TOWARD SEX-ROLES
67
aspiring to activities, not necessarily care, are responsibilities to be shared by
related to the home, which would give them both the sexes. It is interesting to note that
greater fulfilment. It is also a vote against the areas where women are becoming more
subordination to men and a culturally in-
modern are exactly where men want less
herited secondary status. Men on the other change. This could be a source of tension
hand are unwilling to concede much freedom between the sexes. Only in the area of
to women as it may present a threat to job situation, both men and women have
their superior status.
similar attitudes. The reason why women
However, when we study the differences are not significantly more egalitarian than
between the sexes in each area a clearer men in this area of job would be that
picture emerges (Table 1). In the area of competition and success at work presents a
personality traits women are significantly threat to their femininity. The higher scores
more modern than men. This could be for personality traits and household res-
interpreted in two ways. Traditional femi-
ponsibilities for women indicate that this
nine traits such as dependency, passivity are demand for change is spurred more by the
being rejected as they have a low social inferior personality attributed to them and
value, or women think that these traits are their constricted role at home rather than
distributed more or less equally among the any positive need for self-expression or
two sexes. Men continue to adhere to the fulfilment. These needs may become salient
position that there are personality traits once they have been granted equality.
which are "typically male" and The overall picture that emerges for
"typically female". In a study with college women is one of greater equality
college students it was found that both in every walk of life. The picture that
males and females perceived ideal men and emerges for the college male is that he
women as possessing many of the traits has moved away from his traditional posi-
presently valued for the opposite sex (Elman tion but not to the same extent as women
et al 1970). Their findings suggest a shift have. This can mean that college women
by individuals towards more flexible sex-
are more conscious of the double standard
typing. As far as household responsibilities than men and consequently in their attitudes
are concerned women have a significantly reflect a stronger desire to change.
more egalitarian attitude than men. Accord-
ing to women domestic chores and child Background Factors
TABLE 1
The percentage of college men and
MEAN SCORES ON ATTITUDES TOWARDS
women who are traditional and liberal are
SEX-ROLES
as follows: 40.3 per cent of women and
64.7 per cent of men are traditional
Spheres of
Total
59.7 per cent of women and 35.3 per cent
Sex-Role
Male
Female t-ratio
Behaviour
sample
of men are liberal.
Overall
Of those who had English as medium of
Modernity
2.50
2.67
4.71*
2:61
instruction in school 54.1 per cent were
Personality
non-traditional whereas only 39.0 per cent
traits
2.32
2.71
7.12*
2.55
of others were non-traditional (Table 2).
Household
work
2.57
2.68
2.84*
2.63
This could be seen as a consequence of
Job situation 2.68
2.64
0.77
2.65
the Women's Movement in the West. Most
*P 0.01
of the literature and information about the

68
REHANA GHADIALLY AND K. A. KAZI
T A B L E 2
T A B L E 3
PERCENTAGE OF LIBERAL AND TRADITIONAL SUB-
PERCENTAGE OF LIBERAL AND TRADITIONAL SUB-
JECTS W I T H E N G L I S H AND OTHER LANGUAGES AS
JECTS F R O M JOINT AND NUCLEAR FAMILIES
M E D I U M OF INSTRUCTION IN SCHOOL
Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
Percentage of
subjects from
subjects from
subjects with
subjects with
joint families
nuclear families
English as
other languages
medium of
as medium
instruction
of instruction
Non-
in school
in school
traditional
37.9
52.1
Non-
Traditional
62.1
47.9
traditional
54.1
39.0
Traditional
45.9
61.0
Chi-Square: 4.83 (P 0.05)
integrate. This could account for the
Chi-Square: 5.69 (P .05)
greater modernity demonstrated by students
movement filters in through English maga-
from nuclear families. Joint families have
zines and books; the influence understand-
more clearly differentiated roles for the two
ably is stronger on the students who active-
sexes. The need for any change in these
ly use the language. To take a specific role definitions seldom arises as there is
case the report of the Committee on the always a member of the same sex to fill in
Status of Women in India is now being for an absent individual.
translated into major regional languages
(Programme of Women's Studies, 1977).
The percentage of non-traditional respon-
The medium of instruction in school can dents was found to increase in higher
be considered of special significance for income groups, though not significantly
changing traditional sex roles in non-
(Table 4). A striking difference was noticed
English speaking countries.
in the percentage of non-traditional res-
Of the subjects with a joint family back-
pondents in income groups below and
ground 37.9 per cent were non-traditional above Rs. 1,000 per month. Though its a
whereas 52.7 per cent of those coming matter of observation that the lower class
from nuclear families were non-traditional does break sex-roles norms for economic
and this difference was found to be signi-
survival, the attitudes to sex-roles remain
ficant (Table 3). A nuclear family is more conventional. Therefore there are fewer non-
exposed to the pressures of a changing traditional respondents in the lower income
society. Adjustments can be made only by groups. At the same time, the higher income
re-allocating responsibilities between the group have a greater percentage of non-
sexes and traditional role expectations dis-
traditional respondents as most of them are
T A B L E 4
PERCENTAGE OF LIBERAL AND TRADITIONAL SUBJECTS IN EACH INCOME G R O U P
0-500
500-1000
1000-2000
2000-3500
Above 3500
Non-
traditional
39.6
41.4
56.6
56.9
57.1
Traditional
60.5
58.6
43.4
43.1
42.9
Chi-Square: 5.66 (Not significant)

ATTITUDES TOWARD SEX-ROLES
69
not so hard-pressed with the basic issues of with the fact that most religions assign a
survival and thus, have greater opportunity secondary status to women and thus have
to be exposed to and act as agents of social a very conservative influence on their
change.
followers. This trend was not significant
Speaking of religions, Hindu women have probably due to decreased importance of
a history of sati and similar practices to religion in today's world.
account for their traditionality. Muslim
There was no significant relation between
women too, have been brought up in seclu-
the major subject at College and the per-
sion. Christian and Parsee women are centage of non-traditional and tradi-
considered modern by virtue of their tional men (Table 7). Any belief
greater economic participation. In the that men in male-dominated discip-
present study, all the non-Hindu religions lines are more conservative due to extreme
were grouped into one due to the small segregational influence, was not supported.
sample size of each minority group. It was It may be noted that male engineering
found that 50.8 per cent of Hindus and students are exposed to females who are,
46.3 per cent of the others were non-tradi-
though less in number far more egali-
tional (Table 5). Due to combining all non-
tarian than those in other areas of specia-
Hindu religious groups, modern and tradi-
lization. This probably offsets the effect of
tional; no clear differences could emerge. severe segregation of the two sexes.
The percentage of liberal and traditional
girls was significantly related to the major
T A B L E 5
subject at college (Table 7). All the girls
PERCENTAGE OF LIBERAL AND TRADITIONAL H I N D U S
AND N O N - H I N D U S
in Engineering and approximately 65 per
cent of the girls in Arts, Law and Medicine
Percentage of
Percentage of
Hindus
Non-Hindus
were liberal, whereas, only 46 per cent of
girls in Home Science, Commerce and Pure
Non-
Sciences were liberal. Engineering, Medi-
traditional
50.8
46.3
Traditional
49.2
53.7
cine and Law being professional fields, the
girls in these fields are quite accepting of
Chi-Square: 0.33 (Not significant)
a working woman. Their choice of male-
dominated area of study indicates their
There was a trend for more religious will to compete with men and shows a
people to be more traditional in their views high commitment to a career. This is not
on sex-roles (Table 6). This is in accordance the case with girls in Commerce and Pure
Sciences. Girls in these fields do not pursue
T A B L E 6
a career with a comparable commitment,
PERCENTAGE OF LIBERAL AND TRADITIONAL S U B -
JECTS W I T H D I F F E R E N T D E G R E E O F
thus reducing higher education to an asset
RELIGIOUSNESS
in the marriage market. These girls may
Percentage of subject who are
view their education as an additional quali-
very
mode-
less
Not
fication to be used for obtaining a job in
religi-
rately
religi-
religi-
times of financial need only. Home Science
ous
religi-
ous
ous
ous
girls consider their education a prepara-
tion for the traditional role of a home-
Non-
traditional
47.1
45.8
48.6
66.7
maker. One may observe that the discip-
Traditional
52.9
54.2
51.4
33.3
lines per se may or may not make a dif-
ference but the fact that a particular kind
Chi-Square: 5.87 (Not significant)

70
REHANA GHADIALLY AND K. A. KAZI
TABLE 7
PERCENTAGE OF LIBERAL AND TRADITIONAL SUBJECTS IN VARIOUS DISCIPLINES OF STUDY
of woman seeks entrance into a particular cated mothers had a liberal influence on
kind of educational pursuit does.
their daughters.
According to one study (Almquist and
To summarize, college women are more
Angrist, 1971) mothers of career salient egalitarian than college men in their atti-
women and the fathers of non-career salient tudes towards sex-roles. It would seem that
women had slightly higher educational a college student with non- traditional sex-
attainment, but in either case the trend role attitudes is likely to have had English
was not significant. Other studies (Ghadi-
as the medium of instruction in school,
ally, 1977; Seigel and Curtis, 1963) indi-
comes from a nuclear family with an
cate a weak trend that a greater number income higher than Rs. 1,000 per month
of career-oriented women have parents who and is not very religious. In addition
have completed more than high school. women students with non-traditional sex-
The present study shows that the father's role attitudes are likely to be in professional
education had no significant effect on the or career-oriented disciplines and have edu-
subject's sex-role modernity. However, edu-
cated mothers.
REFERENCES
Almquist, E. and
"Role Model Influences on College Women's Career Aspira-
Angrist
tion" in Theodore, A. (Ed.) The Professional Woman, Cam-
1971
bridge : Sehenkman.
Elman, J. Press, A.
"Sex-Role Self-Concepts: Real and Ideal", in Astin, H (Ed.)
and Rosenkrantz, P.
Sex-Roles: A Research Bibliography Washington: DHEW.
1970
Ghadially, R.
"Career-Oriented and Non-Career-Oriented College Women"
1977
Indian Journal of Social Work. 38: 45-50.
Ghadially, R,
"Attitudes towards Marriage Roles Among Indian College
1977
Students". Unpublished.

ATTITUDES TOWARD SEX-ROLES
71
Hawley, P.
"What Women Think Men Think: Does it affect career choice?"
1971
Journal of Counselling Psychology 18: 193-199.
ICSSR
Programme of Women's Studies, Publication No. 104, New
1977
Delhi.
National Committee
"Status of Women in India", A Synopsis of the Report of the
on the Status of
National Committee, New Delhi: ICSSR.
Women
1975
O'Neil William
"Everyone was brave: The Rise and Fall of Feminism in Ame-
1971
rica". Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Parson, T. and
"Family Socialization and Inter-action Process", Gleucoe,
Bales, R F
Illinois: Free Press.
1955
Siegel, A and
"Familial Correlates of Orientation towards Future Employ-
Curtis E.
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1963
logy, 44: 33-37.
Weitz, S.
"Sex-Roles: Biological, Psychological and Social Foundations",
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N. York: Oxford University Press.
APPENDIX
* Personal Contact. Dr. (Ms) L. Murthy.