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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Women's work behaviour : an exploration of sex role socialization, changing structures of opportunity, and women's work behaviour Pearson, Hilary Mary


Current theories of career development are moving toward a holistic, ecological framework (Rapoport & Rapoport, 1980; Super, 1980; Young, 1984a). Recently, attempts have been made to develop a comprehensive model of career behaviour that will articulate the dynamic relationship that exists between individuals and their environment (Astin, 1984; Farmer, 1985). Astin (1984) suggests that changes in work behaviour (at both the individual and group level) are affected by the complex and co-determining relationship that exists between socialization processes and the environmental structure of opportunity. The present exploratory research is a beginning toward validating Astin's model and describing the impact of social change on women's work behaviour. The study examined differences in the reported sex role socialization and current work behaviour of female clerical/secretarial workers at the University of British Columbia, volunteers were selected according to two specific age groups: women born prior to 1940 (45-55 year olds) and women born after 1950 (25-35 year olds). It was hypothesized that younger women would have experienced a more liberal/egalitarian socialization than mature women and that the two groups would be significantly different on three measures of work behaviour (namely Personality Orientation, Work values and Attitudes Toward Married Women's Employment). Univariate analyses of variance were calculated to test the null hypothesis in each case. Spearman Rank correlation coefficients were calculated to examine relationships between scores on the socialization and work behaviour measures paired with four demographic variables (education, total household income, marital status and parental status). Descriptive data gathered during the study provided information about participants' role priorities and role investment in six life areas - Employment, Education, Marriage/ Partnership, Children, Self and Other. Results indicated that there was a statistically significant difference in the reported sex role socialization of the two groups at the .05 level of statistical significance. Younger women reported their socialization to have been significantly more liberal than that of mature women. No statistically significant differences were found to exist between the groups on the three measures of work behaviour. Descriptive data relating to women's role priorities and role investment showed a similar pattern of response in both groups. Qualitative data highlighted the dynamic tension that existed between participants' employment,familial and social roles. The correlational design of the study made it impossible to attribute causality or make definitive statements about the nature of the interaction between socialization processes and structure of opportunity variables. It was suggested, however, that the findings lend indirect support to Astin's (1984) model. Results corroborate existing evidence about the dynamic quality of socialization processes. They also imply that expectations based on sex role socialization experiences are open to modification through interaction with the environment. The study concluded with a discussion of the implications for future research and suggestions for the vocational counseling of women from a life style perspective.

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