Men in Traditional and Nontraditional Careers: Gender Role Attitudes, Gender Role Conflict, and Job Satisfaction

By Dodson, Thomas A.; Borders, L. DiAnne | Career Development Quarterly, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Men in Traditional and Nontraditional Careers: Gender Role Attitudes, Gender Role Conflict, and Job Satisfaction


Dodson, Thomas A., Borders, L. DiAnne, Career Development Quarterly


Men established in traditional (mechanical engineering, n = 100) and nontraditional (elementary school counseling, n = 100) careers were compared on their career compromise choices (sex type vs. prestige), adherence to masculinity ideology, gender role conflict, and job satisfaction. The engineers tended to choose sex type over prestige; the school counselors indicated a clear preference for prestige. The engineers reported more traditional gender role attitudes. The gender role variables had little predictive value for the career compromise choices. The Gender Role Conflict Scale (J. M. O'Neil, B. J. Helms, R. K. Gable, L. David, & L. S. Wrightsman, 1986) Conflict Between Work and Family Relations subscale predicted job satisfaction for both groups.

Investigations of nontraditional careers have primarily been focused on women's career choices and factors that influence their choices (e.g., Auster & Auster, 1981; Lemkau, 1983; O'Brien & Fassinger, 1993; Rainey & Borders, 1997). Relatively few researchers have studied men who enter female-dominated careers. A better understanding of why some men choose nontraditional careers is increasingly important as the labor market becomes more gender balanced (Jome & Tokar, 1998; Lease, 2003). As more women enter male-dominated careers, more men may need to consider female-dominated careers, especially those with a shortage of workers (e.g., teaching, nursing). In addition, there are calls for more men to enter some specific nontraditional professions, such as elementary education, where they can serve as positive role models for children in public schools, particularly those from single-parent families (Allan, 1995; Gaskell & Willinsky, 1995; Hall, 1996). Studies of men who have made such career choices would be valuable to counselors, who then could design effective interventions that encourage more men to consider nontraditional occupations.

L. Gottfredson's (1981) career choice theory seems particularly relevant to the study of men's career choices, because it includes both indivictual and social-environmental influences, such as gender role expectations. L. Gottfredson outlined a developmental theory that addresses the impact of gender roles and role expectations as well as one's gender self-image on career choice. Beginning at age 3, L. Gottfredson argued, children learn which occupations are appropriate for men and women and narrow-or circumscribe-their career choices based on sex types of occupations. Sex type is the first boundary through which occupational preferences are circumscribed; one's gender identity governs the limits of sex-typed occupations that may be considered. L. Gottfredson believed these sex type boundaries are determined by age 9; occupations that are perceived to have the wrong sex type are eliminated from further consideration at this time. Later, individuals consider occupational prestige, social class, the effort required to achieve an occupation, and their individual interests and abilities related to potential career choices. Circumscriptions based on all of these factors result in a unique "social space" of occupations deemed acceptable by an individual (also called the zone of acceptable occupational alternatives).

Individuals often discover, however, that they will not be able to implement their most preferred career choices. They then must compromise and consider less preferred occupations. Compromise may result from anticipating future barriers to achieving preferred careers (e.g., future job market), or it can occur after such barriers are encountered. In either circumstance, L. Gottfredson (1981) believed the compromise process was the opposite of the circumscription process, in that individuals sacrifice interests first, followed by prestige and then sex type. Indeed, L. Gottfredson believed avoiding a cross-sexed job was of the highest concern, although it appears that cross-sexed-typed work is more of a concern for men than for women (Leung, 1988). …

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