Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Relationship between Race and Students' Identified Career Role Models and Perceived Role Model Influence

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Relationship between Race and Students' Identified Career Role Models and Perceived Role Model Influence

Article excerpt

The authors examined whether college students' race was related to the modal race of their identified career role models, the number of identified career role models, and their perceived influence from such models. Consistent with A. Bandura's (1977, 1986) social learning theory, students tended to have role models whose race was the same as their own, and this finding held among career role models who were not members of students' families. Caucasian and racial minority students did not differ respecting overall number of, and perceived influence from, career role models. Career intervention and research implications are discussed.

Understanding more about the unique issues and concerns of racial/ethnic minorities is important (Bowman, 1993; Chung, Baskin, & Case, 1999). Because they may face stereotyping, discrimination, and environmental barriers, individuals who are racial/ethnic minorities may experience unique career development challenges (Herr & Cramer, 1997). For example, a scarcity of same-race role models may be a barrier to some racial minority individuals' career development (Bright, Duefield, & Stone, 1998; Chung et al., 1999; Haas & Sullivan, 1991; Hamann & Walker, 1993) because there are disproportionately fewer racial minority professionals in many career fields and academic settings (Fouad, 1995). The assumptions behind this theoretical postulate are that role models of one's own race serve functions that models of a different racial/ethnic background do not serve and that people consider race when selecting career role models. However, although they may be theoretically likely, these assumptions have not been tested empirically. The purpose of this study was to examine how frequently college students' career role models are of a similar race/ethnicity as that of the student and to determine whether there are differences in the extent of influence from career role models among college students from different racial/ethnic groups.

Role Model Influences on Academic and Career Decision Making

Social learning theory (e.g., Bandura, 1977, 1986) suggests that people learn from watching others. Individuals' career decisions may be facilitated by role models-persons who arc deemed worthy of emulation (Pleiss & Feldhusen, 1995)-because these individuals provide information about the outcomes associated with pursuing a particular career field and illustrate how to cope with career decision-making tasks (e.g., Hackett & Betz, 1981; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994). Indeed, research has documented a relationship between role model influences and a variety of outcomes such as career salience, educational aspirations, and college major choices (Hackctt, Esposito, & O'Halloran, 1989); perceived career information and career indecision (Nauta & Kokaly, 2001); and attitudes toward nontraditional careers (A. L. Greene, Sullivan, & Beyard-Tyler, 1982; Hackett et al., 1989; Savenye, 1992).

Role models may be especially important for minority individuals' career development because a history of discrimination and limited career options may have decreased their self-efficacy and outcome expectations, leading some minorities to have lower educational and career aspirations (B. A. Greene, 1990; Hackett & Byars, 1996). Social cognitive career theory (Lent et al., 1994) suggests that role models who have been successful in their careers may serve as a contextual support that would increase such individuals' self-efficacy and outcome expectations, thereby increasing aspirations toward and persistence in various educational and career realms. Assibey-Mensah (1997) suggested that minorities may also internalize societal stereotypes that need to be dispelled by powerful role models. Finally, Hackctt and Byars (1996) posited that minority individuals may especially benefit from role models who illustrate successful coping strategies for dealing with frustrations encountered as a result of bias and discrimination. …

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