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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sex roles and career goals of university women Waterman, Diane C.


Difficulties in predicting female occupational choices according to the theories developed for men have stimulated research into components of a model effective for women. The objective of the present study was to investigate the usefulness of self concept measures in determining the masculinity or femininity of occupations chosen by female undergraduates at a Canadian university. The ninety subjects who participated in the study were chosen for their enrollment in one of three fields defined by previous research as traditionally feminine or in one of three fields defined as traditionally masculine. The two aspects of self concept considered relevant to the sex stereotype of vocational field were sex role stereotyping and self-esteem. The Bern Sex Role Inventory used to assess the former variable, allowed subjects to endorse both masculine and feminine traits, thus providing an index of psychological androgyny as well as an index of stereotypic masculinity or femininity. Self-esteem was also considered from more than one perspective; that of personal and interpersonal functioning and of academic functioning. The results of the study revealed that the subjects' sex role orientation did not correspond to the sex stereotype associated with their fields of specialization. Similarly, statistically significant differences in self-esteem in either the personal or achievement areas emerged from the comparison among career groups. There was, however, a nonsignificant tendency for women in Science to have higher self-esteem in the achievement area than women in the remaining five groups. When self-esteem relationship in the achievement area between sex typing and self-esteem were examined, however, it was apparent that absolute levels of masculinity were significantly related ±o levels of self-esteem in both the areas being measured. The effects on self-esteem of femininity and androgyny were not statistically significant. In the case of the femininity scores, there were certain deviations from the normative data for the Bern Sex Role Inventory. Further consideration of these findings in terms of the instruments employed led to a factor analysis of the Bern Sex Role Inventory. Four factors were obtained. They are identified as scales measuring the constructs Dominance, Independence, Nurturance, and Passivity. Utilizing these newly designed scales, an analysis was made of the previous statistically non-significant relationships. While sex of field could still not be predicted according to scores on these factors, predictions regarding levels of self-esteem were refined by use of factor scores. By thus isolating the independent effects of the two feminine factors--Nurturance and Passivity--upon Inter/Personal self-esteem, the source of the low correlations for femininity was identified. The positive effects of the Nurturance factor were counteracted by the negative effects of the Passivity factor, resulting in a low correlation with self-esteem and with Social Desirability for the original Femininity scale. The two aspects of Masculinity which were defined by the factor analysis also bore differing, although not opposite relationships to the self-esteem criteria. Qualities denoting Independence were of most importance in explaining levels of self-esteem in the personal and interpersonal areas, while traits suggestive of Dominance were most relevant to self-esteem in the achievement area. The effectiveness of sex role stereotyping in predicting the sex stereotype of women's career choices was therefore not confirmed by the results of the present study. The relevance of self-esteem as a variable which moderates the predictive ability of other determinants of career choice was similarly unconfirmed. A number of reasons were postulated as to why the results differ from previous studies on patterns of career choice among women. Recommendations were made for further research into the measurement of psychological androgyny and its significance to women's career aspirations.

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