Do men and women think about, or experience, ‘trust’ differently? At this early stage in the Landscape of Trust research, it’s hard to say for sure, but what is clear is that, across a range of metrics, gender is one of the most mobile variables. Yesterday i wrote about the clear difference in the emotional tone words that the different genders use, and this effect was also visible in the earlier analysis of the use of the words ‘trust’ and ‘mistrust’: in the first analysis, more women than men used the word ‘mistrust’, whilst in the larger group analysis, the effect reversed by 180 degrees, so currently more men use ‘mistrust’ in their descriptions.
None of this can have too much read into it: one possibility of the movement is the nature of the data gathering. Often i work with a new group, i recruit a new cohort, and they take part in the research, and it’s a fact of the groups i work with that they can often be strongly gender biased. For example. When i work with military groups, they often are predominantly male, nurses are often predominantly female, HR groups tend to be more female, so this may cause the data to lurch. Or there may be deeper effects.
I could share a hypothesis that cultural normalisation causes us to take gender stereotyped roles, and that this is showing up in the data. Forgive my choosing a clumsy example, but one ‘stereotype’ might be that in a relationship breakup, the women will cry and sit with her friends, whilst a may will go out drinking and be boisterous with his mates (i’m deliberately choosing a clumsy stereotype). Perhaps this feeds into culturally normalised use of language?
There are some other effects around gender that are interesting, around some of the calibration questions. Here are the results from two of them:
“Those devoted to unselfish causes are often exploited by others”, where  is ‘Strongly Disagree’, and  is ‘Strongly Agree’.
In the age group of 24-35, women average 2.42 and men, 3.86, so a significant shift, and one that is getting stronger as the sample size grows (this result is from analysis of the first 178 responses).
“There will be more people who will not work if the social security system is developed further”, where  is ‘Strongly Disagree’, and  is ‘Strongly Agree’.
In the same age bracket, of 24-35, women average at 2.31, and men at 3.42, again, a significant difference.
Out of all the factors being measured, admittedly with what is still a small sample size, gender is the most common variable affecting responses.
I stressed yesterday the nature of this Landscape of Trust research, and i will repeat today: i’m using community to carry out an ambitious global study to produce an open data set. We are sharing one level of analysis, but i hope in time that other people will reinterpret it and share others, and that between us we will form and test ideas. My reflection is this: cultural roles are deeply embedded from a very early age, gender stereotypes are dominant and persistent, so i expect that some of this will be embedded into our patterns of language. If that were true, it would not be surprising that we see differences.
Beyond that, i am less sure: some stereotypes may lead us to think that women are more emotional, perhaps more likely to be reflective. Men may be more likely to be brusque or macho about the subject. But bear in mind the other data i shared yesterday: the significant majority of participants, across both genders, strongly used ‘analytic’ language around trust, with a minority using ‘confident’ language. So no strong gender effect there.
This is early stage #WorkingOutLoud, perhaps as the sample grows, these effects will iron out: certainly we will consciously try to effect balance, for example, i can recruit a group of male nurses to take part.
Again, my own view is this: i don’t think that men and women experience trust differently, but i could see that there may be trends towards willingness to reflect upon it, and i could see differences in normalised language showing up, but with all of this, time will tell.
Please feel free to share your own experiences and views, and do take part in the research if you have not yet done so. I will be sharing the first Research Report at the end of September, you can sign up here.