Award Date

5-1-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Research Cognition and Development

First Committee Member

W. P. Jones

Second Committee Member

Wendy Hoskins

Third Committee Member

Pamela Staples

Fourth Committee Member

Jesse Brinson

Number of Pages

178

Abstract

Women make up a considerable portion of the 21st century workforce. Despite the increase in the labor force, the Census Bureau continues to reflect that the majority of women are employed in what are defined as traditionally female occupations (Watson, Quatman & Edler, 2002). Even though the proportion of women in the work force has increased, women continue to be underrepresented in high-paying, high status professions that have been traditionally male dominated (Betz, 1994). Significant research has been devoted to understanding the unique variables which affect women's career choices and behaviors. According to Fitzgerald, Fassinger, and Betz (1995), women's vocational behavior is distinctive as well as more complicated than that of men.

The idea that there is value in choosing an occupation based one's abilities and interest as suggested by the trait-factor approach in general and Holland's model (1997) in particular has generally been supported in the field of career psychology. However, the increase in women's participation in the world of work during the 20th and beginning of the 21st century should have resulted in occupations more evenly populated by women and men. Occupational gender segregation persists, as indicated by the continued underrepresentation of women in science and technology fields. Therefore, it seems that there is not a simple direct matching of person and occupation, particularly in the case of women's career development.

This study examined the correlations between career choices and vocational self-efficacy for college women who have chosen a traditional feminine career path. A total of 157 women from ages 18 to 40+ years responded to this study. Congruence was measured using traditional and trait based measures of vocational interests and a measure of vocational efficacy. In addition, this study examined the degree to which participants conform to an array of feminine norms consistent with the dominant US culture.

Using quantitative research methodology complemented with a qualitative aspect, information was gathered through online surveys using research-based questionnaires. To enhance this study, five follow up interviews were conducted with selected participants. This qualitative aspect provided a voice to the study as well as allowing further exploration of how a woman determines her career choice, albeit a stereotypical female career path.

Two general questions were asked in this study. The first examined if the vocational self-efficacy of a female college student pursuing a traditionally female career path corresponds to the standard Holland model of vocational interests or to an adapted vocational interest scale and if age was a significant variable. The second examined whether today's female college student adheres or rejects traditional feminine norms.

In this study, vocational interests were measured with both the traditional Holland vocational inventory and the CogStyle scale, an adapted measure designed to elicit the underlying personality trait. This study indicates that within a group of women pursuing a traditionally female career path, the interest scores based on personality preferences were more consistent with perceived self-efficacy than were the interest scores based on traditional occupational stereotypes.

This study also revealed that in a sample of women pursuing a traditionally female career path, the younger college student has a higher adhere to feminine norms than the nontraditional college student. Analyses revealed that there was a statistically significant difference with the age of the participant and her conformity to feminine norms scores. Post hoc comparisons revealed that the youngest age group differed significantly from the oldest age group. And overall, the mean score for the oldest age group was lower than the other three. The CFNI-45 scores were designed to measure conformity to traditional gender role norms, so lower scores indicate a rejection of these norms. These findings may also suggest that adhering to traditional feminine norms was a factor that led to selection of a traditional female career.

The results of this study were also examined from a feminist perspective. It is well documented that women are still heavily involved as a prominent force in the education field. Education has been criticized for becoming feminized. Instead of looking at how to move women away from the field, this study came from the viewpoint of women, knowingly making a choice to pursue a career in the educational field, and seeking to provide some insight to the factors involved in that choice.

Career self-efficacy is an important variable in the educational and career development of all students (Hackett, Betz, Casas, & Rocah-Sigh, 1992) but may be especially critical to the career development of women (Betz & Hackett, 1981; Bonett, 1994). A thorough understanding of the dynamics involved in the career decision making processes of women has significant value to the career counseling of women (Gysbers, Heppner, & Johnson, 2009). It is hoped that the findings of this study will contribute to the field of counseling and hopefully provide data to career counselors as well as counselor educators in addressing the needs of women.

Keywords

Career choices; Career development; Feminine norms; Femininity; Sexual division of labor; Vocational efficacy; Women – Vocational guidance; Vocational interests; Women – Employment; Women – Identity

Disciplines

Counseling Psychology | Women's Studies | Work, Economy and Organizations

Language

English


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