Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Decision Making of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Individuals

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Decision Making of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Individuals

Article excerpt

Until the 1980s, the vocational behavior of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals had been largely ignored in the literature. During the past few years, issues pertaining to the career development of these populations have been addressed. Nevertheless, empirical research in this area is still lacking. Phillips, Strohmer, Berthaume, and O'Leary's (1983) proposal of an alternative research paradigm for studying the career development of special populations may be useful in directing research in this area. They suggested that descriptive and explanatory studies are important in a new area of research. Inquiries and hypotheses may be guided by current theories as well as by exploratory analyses of descriptive information revealed during the course of investigation.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of theory guiding counselors' understanding of the vocational behavior of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Development of theories is critical for advancing research and practice. Morgan and Brown (1991) have suggested applying minority career development theories (i.e., those pertaining to Blacks and women) to explain the vocational behavior of lesbians. This is a legitimate idea given the similar oppression faced by racial, gender, and sexual minorities (i.e., lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals); In an attempt to explain the career development of lesbians, Morgan and Brown discussed the application of three theoretical models of career development (Astin, 1984; Farmer, 1985; Gottfredson, 1981). Among these three models, Farmer's model seems to be the most promising because of its comprehensiveness, operationalizability, and testability. The model delineates the influence of background characteristics and the interactive effects of personal and environmental factors on an individual's career motivation. Farmer placed more emphasis on the study of personal and environmental factors because they are relatively more viable for intervention than are background variables.

Hetherington (1991) suggested that the personal and environmental factors influencing lesbians' and gay men's career decision making might be quite different from those for heterosexual people. But the existing literature on the vocational behavior of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals has focused primarily on environmental factors without much attention given to personal factors (e.g., career interests, values, and skills). Belz (1993) also emphasized the consideration of personal factors as well as external influences. To advance the understanding of the vocational behavior of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals, there is a need to conduct more empirical studies exploring the influences of personal and environmental factors on the career decision-making process of these populations.

This article discusses personal and environmental factors in the career decision making of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. Although Farmer's (1985) personal factors include a variety of psychological and cognitive components (e.g., sex role orientation, achievement style), in this article, the discussion of personal factors focuses on the career interests, values, and skills of an individual because these factors are of central importance to a person's career decision making. Environmental factors discussed in this article focus on the barriers that lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals may encounter in the workplace. This article extends previous reviews by offering (a) an exploration of personal factors and their relations to environmental factors in the career decision making of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals; (b) a critical review of the empirical literature; and (c) directions for research and practice.

Personal and environmental factors in relation to sexual orientation are discussed. Then the career decision making of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals is explored, taking into account the interactive effects of personal and environmental factors. …

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