UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Women's conceptions of power Wilson, Carol Lynne


This thesis describes women's conceptions of power in the context of an all-woman work group. Research on the psychology of power, which began in the 1950's, has been dominated by particular focii, perspectives and techniques which may have resulted in somewhat narrow definitions of power which tap only factors traditionally seen as "masculine." In reframing these focii, perspectives and techniques, this research focuses on women's understandings; was conducted from a naturalistic perspective, using qualitative techniques; and approached the investigation of power from a position of "not knowing" rather than relying on a priori theory. The naturalistic perspective used in this study is phenomenography, a relatively new research approach developed in Sweden by a group of educational researchers at the University of Goteborg. Phenomenography describes individuals' conceptions in the form of categories of description which represent people's ways of understanding or conceptualizing phenomena—in this case, power. The findings of this study—the conceptions of power— came out of in-depth open-ended interviews with eight women who comprised the membership of the 1988-89 "gender-fair" counsellors' training team at UBC. These interviews were conducted in the hermeneutic tradition of mutually-constructed meaning, audio taped, transcribed, and analyzed to yield six qualitatively different conceptions of power which appear consistent with feminist theory on women's developmental perspectives and views of power. The conceptions, in the form of categories of meaning, are organized into an outcome space in which understandings of power move from: (a) an inner focus on self to an outer focus on the other; (b) a view of the process as "being", to acting, to interacting; and (c) a private context to a public context. The six conceptions of power are: 1. personal integrity 1a. entitlement 2. expressing personal integrity/congruence 3. self-determination 4. agency/competence 5. respected standing 6. influence The implications of these findings for counselling and suggestions for further research are discussed.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.