Gender roles are increasingly blurring, but a new survey reveals half of men still believe the car dealership is their exclusive domain. To let women make that big-ticket purchase is, apparently, a Bridgestone too far.
The Nielsen Company reported last week that 51 per cent of Canadian males believe the man of the house is the "most appropriate decision-maker" when it comes to buying a car. Even more notably, 40 per cent of females agree with that sentiment.
"The big message here is that there are still really powerful gender imperatives," says David Rayside, professor of sexual diversity studies at the University of Toronto. "A lot of people believe they're more equitable than they actually are."
In the nationwide survey, roughly two per cent of men, and five per cent of women, felt the lady of the manor was best-suited to having the final word on a car purchase.
More encouragingly, 48 per cent of men, and 56 per cent of women, said it should be a shared decision - a finding that dovetails with a picture of progress painted by car-purchase data south of the border.
According to CNW Marketing Research, women represented 22.2 per cent of primary buyers of new cars in 1985. As of 2010, they account for 44.05 per cent of primary buyers.
"There's been some blurring of gender lines, there's no question," says Rayside. "But they remain a significant social force."
To illustrate, Rayside points to numbers elsewhere in the Nielsen survey showing that 46 per cent of women and 50 per cent of men felt decisions about child care in the home were best shared. But among Canadians who believed one gender was more suitable than the other, both sexes overwhelmingly came out against men.
Fewer than one per cent of women, and just 10 per cent of men, felt males were the most appropriate decision-makers on such matters, compared to the 53 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men who said females were ideal for the job.
"People still fall into patterns about who's best or who should have the primary responsibility," laments Rayside.
The same can be said of the car-buying findings, where despite the large number of men and women who believed in dual responsibility, a dismal proportion supported the notion of females taking the wheel in such a purchase.
Jim Conley, a professor of sociology at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., suggests two forces are at work: first, an assumption that men are more knowledgeable about, or more interested in, cars than women are, and second, that a man's gender identity is more strongly bound up with driving.
"A woman can drive a large SUV or pickup truck without getting much grief from other women but, in some circles, a man driving what is seen as a 'chick car' is going to have his masculinity questioned by his macho buddies," says Conley.
Andrew Baboneau, an auto enthusiast from Edmonton, says he always takes the lead in narrowing down the best family car to purchase, and admits he'll try to "sell" his wife on his front-runner. But only to a point.
"I would never go as far as buying something without her input or blatantly disregarding her opinion," says Baboneau. "I probably wouldn't still be alive if I did that!"
The nationwide survey of more than 500 men and women was conducted between February and April using online, central location and door-to-door interviews. No margin of error is given for the Canadian data, which was part of a larger global consumer analysis.