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Taxi Drivers, Cashiers, and Restaurant Servers: A Cross-Cultural Study of Gender Differences

Lee Ellis and Siti Nor Awang


Published: 2011/09/01


In Western cultures, pronounced gender differences in occupations have been well documented, but comparable differences in other countries have been minimally investigated. The present study used direct observation to compare gender differences in persons performing three occupations – taxi driver, cashier, and restaurant server – in one Western country (the United States) and two non- Western countries (China and Malaysia). Results revealed that in all three countries, taxi drivers are overwhelmingly males while cashiers and restaurant servers are predominantly females. In fact, the gender ratios for these occupations in all three countries were statistically equivalent. While difficult-to-identify social factors may also play a role in determining occupational choices by men and women, the present study seems more compatible with suggestions that evolved neurohormonal factors may be involved. Consequently, the discussion proposes that biological factors incline males toward taxi driving because this line of work makes heavy demands on spatial reasoning skills. Females, on the other hand, are hypothesized to be drawn toward being cashiers and restaurant servers because of the social orientation and social skills required of these occupations.

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