Researchers analyzed responses to decades of statistics and survey questions about women’s roles in society and found that where a woman is born affects how much she works and earns.
The study, which focused on the U.S., found that women from states where sexism is more widespread tend to get married and have children at a younger age than women in less sexist states. Even if a woman who grows up in a more rural area moves to a less-sexist area, researchers say it is still difficult to shake the effects from the sexism where they were raised.
“The headline from the study is basically that sexism is in the water where you’re born, it’s in your blood. Obviously, where you’re born is not something you can control, so this is something you inherit that may determine part of the shape of your life, and that it’s very hard to permanently overcome,” CBS News contributor and New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor told “CBS This Morning.”
The survey found the impact of sexism to be deep and wide-ranging, affecting everything from when you marry and go to work, income, how much you work and how long you stay in the workplace. Researchers only surveyed white women, knowing the powerful effect of racism, to focus the results on gender’s impact alone.
Kantor said the takeaway from the study has to do with the way we think about barriers.
“A few years ago, the kind of ‘lean in’ ideas were more popular, the idea that if you just worked hard enough and asserted yourself more and were really ambitious, you could overcome some of these thing,” she said. “And I think this study is very of-the-moment in that it’s really capturing a lot of current thinking, saying there are these gigantic structural barriers that are very difficult to overcome as an individual. There’s another talking about why women find it so hard to work after they have babies that talks about things like the cost of child care. It’s gone up 65 or 70 percent since the 1980s. That is a giant barrier that people find very difficult to overcome on an individual basis.”