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Gender Differences in Adolescent Career Exploration. ERIC Digest.
Career exploration is a developmental stage identified by career development theorists (Super, l990) and occurs typically during adolescence when boys and girls try out various work roles in part time work, volunteer work, or in school/community activities. Exploration tasks also include gaining an increasing awareness and understanding of the self, of abilities, interests, values, and needs. Jordaan (1963) indicated that exploration is the first of three substages leading to realistic career choice. Exploratory behavior follows the stage of tentative choice and is a time when a person wants to know as much as possible about themselves and about the world of work in order to make the best choice. This digest focuses on gender differences in the role of assessment in the exploration process. Career assessment texts, such as those of Walsh and Betz (1994) and Walsh and Osipow (1994), contain excellent chapters on gender bias in career assessment. In particular, the Gottfredson chapter in Walsh and Osipow provides extensive suggestions on how assessment may be used to stimulate career exploration that is gender fair.
GENDER DIFFERENCES IN CAREER EXPLORATION
GENDER DIFFERENCES IN CAREER INTEREST ASSESSMENT
The National Institute of Education (NIE) issued guidelines for reducing sex bias in interest measurement (Diamond, 1975) and these guidelines were effective in stimulating the publishers of the most frequently used career interest measures to revise their instruments to make them more sex fair (i.e., Strong Interest Inventory (SII), Harmon, Hansen, Borgen, & Hammer, 1994; Kuder Occupational Interest Survey (KOIS), Kuder & Zytowski,1991; and The Self Directed Search (SDS), Holland, Fritzsche, & Powell,1994). Sex bias was defined in the NIE Guidelines (Diamond, 1975) as "any factor that might influence a person to limit--or might cause others to limit--his or her consideration of a career solely on the basis of gender." These guidelines further suggested that administration of an interest inventory be accompanied by an orientation dealing with possible influences from the environment, culture, early socialization, traditional sex role expectations of society, home-versus-career conflict, and the experiences typical of women and men as members of various ethnic and social class groups on men's and women's scores. Such orientation should encourage respondents to examine stereotypic "sets" toward activities and occupations and should help respondents to see that there is virtually no activity or occupation that is exclusively male or female (Diamond, 1975, pp. xxvi- xxvii). Interest inventories that extend exploration of occupations beyond those the client has already considered into fields not typical for their gender would be viewed as responsive to the NIE Guidelines. Which interest inventories in 1994 best meet this exploratory validity criterion?
During the period from the early 1970's to the mid 1980's most interest measures met the criteria set down by the NIE Guidelines to eliminate sexist language, to use the same form of the test for both sexes; to provide scores on all occupational scales for both sexes with an explanation of which norms were used to develop the scale, and to use items that equally reflected the experiences/activities familiar to both sexes.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, career interest inventories such as the Self Directed Search (Holland, et al. 1994) still obtain significantly higher scores for women on Social scales (i.e., those related to people and service oriented occupations) and significantly higher scores for men on Realistic scales (i.e. those related to technical, skilled trades, engineering occupations). Hansen, Collins, Swanson, and Fouad (1993) assessed sex differences in Holland's hexagon ordering of career interests as measured by the SII and found that the distance between interest types was significantly different for men and women when samples were matched for occupation and level. These authors found that women's scores on Investigative and Realistic scales were highly correlated and that the structure of Holland's Hexagon was significantly different for men and women. The SII (Harmon et al., 1994) Manual suggests the use of this inventory to facilitate career exploration for the non-college bound youth, but not for the college bound. Since evidence of gender differences continue to be found for career interest measures it seems imperative to revive the NIE Guidelines orienting women clients to the effects of their socialization on their scores. In the latest version of the SDS the Assessment Booklet gives the following advice to users after they have obtained their SDS scores: "Remember that results are affected by many factors in your background. For example, because society encourages men and women to aspire to different vocations women receive more Social, Artistic and Conventional codes than men, while men receive more Investigative, Realistic and Enterprising codes. Yet we know that almost all jobs can be successfully performed by members of either sex. If your codes differ from your Occupational Daydream codes keep these influences in mind. You may decide to stick with your Daydreams" (Holland, 1994, p. 12). It would be interesting to know what kind of SDS scores a person might obtain if they received this message before taking the inventory, consistent with NIE Guidelines.
Diamond, E. & Zytowski, D. (1991). Manual for the Kuder Occupational Interest Survey, DD. Chicago, IL: Science Research Associates.
Gottfredson, L. (1981). Circumscription and compromise: A developmental theory of occupational aspirations (Monograph) Journal of Counseling Psychology, 28, 545-579.
Hansen, J. I. , Collins, R., Swanson, J., & Fouad, N. (1993). Gender differences in the structure of interests. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 42, 200-211.
Harmon, L., Hansen, J.-I, Borgen, F., & Hammer, A. (1994). Strong Interest Inventory: Applications and Technical Manual, Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Holland, J., Fritzsche, B. & Powell, A. (1994) Technical Manual for the Self-Directed Search, Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Jordaan, J. (1963). Exploratory behavior: The formation of self and occupational concepts. In D. Super, R. Starishevsky, N. Matlin, & J. Jordaan, (pp 42-78) New York, NY: The College Board.
Klein, S. (1985). Handbook for achieving sex equity through education. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
National Science Foundation (1994). Request for Proposals. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Super (1990). A Life-span, life-space approach to career development. In D. Brown, L. Brooks, & Associates. Career choice and development (2nd ed: pp 197-261). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Walsh, B. & Betz, N. (1994). Tests and Assessment. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Walsh, B. & Osipow, S. (1994). Advances in vocational psychology: Volume 1: The assessment of interests. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Helen S. Farmer, Ph.D., is a Professor, Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling Psychology Division, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated. This publication was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Contract No. RR93002004. Opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions of the U.S. Department of Education, OERI, or ERIC/CASS
Title: Gender Differences in Adolescent Career Exploration. ERIC Digest.
Descriptors: * Adolescents; Career Choice; Career Counseling; * Career Exploration; Career Guidance; Career Planning; Decision Making; Developmental Stages; Elementary Secondary Education; * Evaluation Methods; School Guidance; * Sex Differences; Test Interpretation
Identifiers: ERIC Digests
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