Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

College Women's Career Self-Efficacy and Educational Environments

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

College Women's Career Self-Efficacy and Educational Environments

Article excerpt

Women's participation in the labor force has increased to the point that Hyde (1985) noted, "The working woman, then, is not a variation from the norm, she is the norm" (p.169). The majority of women, however, continue to work in jobs that are low in pay and status. Thus, many studies of women's careers have focused on factors that contribute to females' choice of work traditionally done by males, jobs that are higher in salary and status than traditionally feminine careers.

Hackett and Betz (1981) proposed that Bandura's (1977, 1978) concept of self-efficacy offered a theoretical basis for understanding women's career choices. Bandura (1978) held that humans engage in self-reflective thought about their performance capabilities that boosts or undermines their efforts to learn. Betz and Hackett (1981) applied this theory by suggesting that female socialization provides less access to the sources of information important to the development of strong expectations of efficacy with respect to career-related behaviors. Such sources of information, according to Bandura (1978) include performance accomplishments, vicarious learning, verbal persuasion, and emotional arousal.

Empirically testing this theory, Betz and Hackett (1981) examined gender differences in self-efficacy regarding the educational requirements and job duties of 10 traditionally male and 10 traditionally female occupations. Results indicated a difference between male and female efficacy expectations. Whereas men believed they were equally capable of performing in both male and female occupations, females' efficacy beliefs varied according to the gender-appropriateness of the occupation. Women held higher self-efficacy expectations than men for traditionally female occupations (those in which 70% or more of the employees are women) and lower efficacy expectations for male-dominated careers. Men and women differed in their efficacy expectations, yet there were no significant differences between genders in ability, measured by math and English ACT scores. Because math ability is seen as necessary to the pursuit of many nontraditional careers, especially those in science and technology, Betz and Hackett (1983) studied efficacy expectations of math problems and courses among general college students. They found that men reported significantly stronger beliefs in their math ability than women, and men's stronger efficacy beliefs corresponded to their greater propensity to choose math-or science-based college majors.

Somewhat contradictory results were found in studies of college students who had already chosen majors in science or engineering. Lent, Larkin, and Brown (1984, 1986) examined the relationship between efficacy expectations and the degree of persistence and academic success of science and engineering students. In both studies they found that high self-efficacy was the predictor of significantly higher grades and the likelihood of persisting in the major. No gender differences in career self-efficacy were found in either study. This suggests that women who choose a nontraditional college major are equivalent to men in career self-efficacy, and may have higher efficacy expectations than other women regarding nontraditional careers.

The sources of these differing expectations have been explored and the educational system has been noted as one of the most powerful influences on women's career development (Betz & Fitzgerald, 1987). Several researchers have studied the influence of single-sex and coed high schools on females' career interests (Lee & Bryk, 1986; Trickett, Trickett, Castro, & Schaffner, 1982) and the composition by sex of women's colleges as antecedents of career choice (Hennig & Jardim, 1977; Tidball, 1980). No clear pattern emerged from these studies. Recent results reported by Rubenfeld and Gilroy (1991) found that college women reporting attendance at single-sex high schools showed significantly more interest in nontraditional careers than those attending coed high schools. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.