Experimental Design Details
The occupation I have selected for this study is personal care attendant (PCA) for the elderly. Like many other care occupations, PCA is often seen as a woman’s job. The ideal PCA is expected to have feminine characteristics such as being kind, warm, emotionally sensitive, compassionate, empathetic, and devoted to taking care of their clients. As such, workers who appear masculine might be perceived as not possessing these desirable qualities and therefore might not be qualified for the job. Unlike the case with nurses or kindergarten teachers where customers are assigned to a service provider, here customers have greater unilateral power to hire or fire the PCA.
The hiring scenario for this position describes a situation where the subjects need to hire a PCA to provide care for their elderly parents. We expect that subjects will display a heightened level of scrutiny because they are making decision on behalf of a more vulnerable population (the elder). The scenario will specify that the main responsibilities of the worker are care-giving tasks, such as providing companionship, cooking, housekeeping, etc. By highlighting these tasks, we want to prime subjects to associate this position with femininity and womanhood, thus increase the likelihood that masculine-presenting workers will be discriminated.
As a control for the experiment, I select group fitness facilitator for senior home facilities. Like PCAs, group fitness instructor provide personal service to their clients and the job requires regular, repeated, in-person interaction. Unlike the PCA, however, group fitness instructors do not have a strong social association with femininity, and thus provide a neutral baseline for comparison (according to recent CPS data, around 85% of PCA are female while only 60% of fitness instructors are female).
To make the hiring scenario for the group fitness instructor comparable to the hiring scenario for the CPA, we will highlight that the subjects need to hire a fitness instructor for a retirement home where their parents reside. The fitness classes are meant to keep seniors active, mobile, and offer opportunities for socialization. We pick these dimensions to prime the subjects to think of this job as more gender neutral, as opposed to being overly physical and masculine, like a personal body-building trainer.