October 2022

IZA DP No. 15621: The Times Have Changed: Tracking the Evolution of Gender Norms over Time

Data on job advertisements from 1950 up to 2020 reveal that there was a significant change among Swiss employers' stated preferences regarding their prospective employees' gender. More specifically, the proportion of gender-neutral job posts increased from 5 to almost 95 percent within the observation period. To further corroborate and contextualize this finding, I complement it with time series on the relative frequency of several specific queries, such as equality between men and women, from Google's German language book corpus. These additional series are broadly consistent with the evolution of the share of gender-neutral job posts. However, it also appears that there are two distinct narratives, one concerned with the personal sphere, identity and intimate relationships, the other with the political and public realm. Interestingly, the narrative on personal relations set off considerably earlier than the change in the proportion of gender-neutral job ads. Overall, the evidence from the different data series shows that gender norms have changed substantively, yet in a complex manner, over the past decades.