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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Counsellor bias in occupational choice for female students Schroeder, Alana Shirley


The purpose of this study was to determine if high school counsellors in British Columbia would have a tendency to choose for females, jobs that paid less, required less education and more supervision. In addition, counsellor's age and family background were examined to see if these variables related to counsellor career selection for young women. It was thought that a study of this type was important to establish if an occupational career bias against females does exist, and then, to use that data to bring this information into counsellors' awareness. This data would be useful for the improvement of both in-service and university-based counsellor education program. A random sample of 200 high school counsellors from the British Columbia Counsellors Association were asked to analyze six case studies previously designed and used by Donahue (1976). The personal characteristics of the student described in each case study could describe either a male or a female. Two forms containing identical case study information were used. However, on the second form the sex designation of each case study subject was the opposite of the sex designation on the first form. Thus, each case was presented to half of the counsellors in the sample as a male student and to the other half of the counsellors in the sample as a female student. Participants were given a list of 28 occupations. These occupations had been previously given weighted coefficients on a seven-point scale for salary, level of prerequisite education, and for level of supervision. The counsellors were asked to choose three occupations for each case study subject and rank these occupations in order of preference. The occupations were later assigned a coefficient of remuneration, education and supervision. In addition, on a short personal data sheet, enclosed with the questionnaire, respondents were asked to provide information on their age and family structure. The data were collected over a seven week period. Sixty-nine per cent of the subjects completed the questionnaire and data sheets. However, twelve per cent of the questionnaires returned were not in usuable form. The data were analyzed using the Mann-Whitney U test. The results demonstrated that British Columbia counsellors in the study tended to choose lower paying occupations that are more highly supervised for female case study subjects than for male subjects. The differences were statistically significant for these two variables. There appeared to be no difference in levels of prerequisite education chosen for both male and female case study subjects. The two additional variables of counsellor's age and family structure were found to be independent of and unrelated to remuneration, education and supervision levels chosen. Counsellors of all ages and types of family structures chose occupations for females that paid less and were more highly supervised than the occupations chosen for identical male case study subjects. In conclusion, British Columbia counsellors in this study hold the same occupational biases toward women. They encourage, perhaps at an unconscious level, conformity to the currently accepted sex roles in the labour market. These counsellors showed a marked tendency to choose different kinds of occupations for males than for females. The occupations chosen perpetuate the current condition of women who earn less than men, seldom work in a supervisory capacity and do not fully utilize their equivalent, formal education.

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