Friendship and Gender: Perspectives of Professional Men and Women

Same- and cross-sex friendships of 156 professional men and women were investigated using a self-report questionnaire consisting of rating scales and open-ended questions. Results indicated that while both sexes viewed the characteristics of an ideal friendship in similar ways, their actual experiences of friendships differed. Women’s same-sex friendships were rated higher for overall quality, intimacy, enjoyment and nurturance. Men, on the other hand, rated their cross-sex friendships higher in these areas, with the exception of intimacy which was rated the same by men in both same- and cross-sex friendships. Cross-sex friendships provided both sexes with new understandings and perspectives of the opposite sex. Both sexes generally kept their friendships and sexual relationships separate though sexual feelings and tensions still existed in many cross-sex friendships. These results are similar to findings from studies with college students, indicating that women’s participation in professional roles has not resulted in dramatic changes in friendship patterns. Gender differences in same- and cross-sex friendships remain strong, despite new career roles for women.

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