Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Relational Personality Theory and Holland's Typology among Women: An Exploratory Investigation

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Relational Personality Theory and Holland's Typology among Women: An Exploratory Investigation

Article excerpt

Relational personality theorists propose that women have a tendency to view themselves in the context of relationships with others and to make decisions to optimize and maintain relationships. The current study explored whether relational identity may underlie women's career interests as measured by Holland's typology and examined possible implications of this relationship in career settings. Measures of women's connected self and the Social dimension of Holland's typology were found to be related but separate constructs. Participants with Social interests also indicated some variation in their interest in working in collaborative environments and/or in helping roles on the job.

Great strides have been made in decreasing sex bias in career instruments by eliminating sexist language, using sex-balancing on items, and changing use or interpretation of norms (Betz, 1992). In addition, there has been an increased societal awareness on improving opportunities in a broader range of careers for women. The work environment looks very different for women today than it did 30 years ago prior to the women's movement. Many women enter "nontraditional" careers that were formerly only available to men, and, in general, it appears that society in the United States views most careers as open to women today. However, careers within the Social domain, which primarily represent the education and helping professions, tend to be dominated by women. Furthermore, despite changes in career instruments and career counseling practices, women are still likely to have high Social scores on interest inventories (Walsh & Betz, 2001) and to choose Social majors (Trusty, Ng, & Ray, 2000).

There has been a great deal of attention in the career literature on addressing women's career needs and creating appropriate assessments. However, the Holland typology itself has generally been considered an accurate reflection of the world of work, although the theory was developed during a time when more rigid gender roles predominated. Holland, Powell, and Fritzsche (1994a) conceded that the typology cannot account for all aspects related to career. Are there underlying factors within the conceptualization of the typology that may contribute to gender disparities? One aspect that appears to be missing from the Holland typology is a collaborative personality or work environment. Although Holland's types are fairly complex in their conceptualization, in their orientation to working with people, Enterprising types generally supervise or manage others, and Conventional types support others. The Social type is most closely associated with working with people and is primarily oriented to helping others. The Investigative, Realistic, and Artistic types are generally described without a people focus. This people/things dimension and the hierarchical nature of relationships may not adequately reflect several important aspects of women's career interests.

Relational models of women's development have been proposed that focus on the centrality of relationships to women's identities and values. Developers of relational models of women's growth and development of personality propose that women's identity and values differ from men's (Enns, 1991; Gilligan, 1982; Jordan, Kaplan, Miller, Stiver, & Surrey, 1991; Jordan, Walker, & Hartling, 2004). These theorists emphasize that women's identity and values are centered on relationships and the connected self (Enns, 1991; Gilligan, 1982; Jordan et al., 1991)andthat these values and bases for identity should be accepted and valued as much as men's orientation to the separate self. Pearson et al. ( 1998) defined the ideas stressed in relational personality theory as two distinct constructs that describe orientation to separateness and connection. The connected self describes someone to whom "interdependency, connection with others, egalitarian interchange, and concern for individuals (including themselves) in their own contexts are central" (p. …

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