Gender, values, and the formation of occupational goals
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Despite the trend toward greater gender equality in the workforce, gender segregation of occupations is still prevalent. In the year 2000, for example, 80 percent of all jobs classified by the U. S. Census Bureau employed predominately one sex. Gender stereotyping has been hypothesized to play a direct role in occupational segregation via differential treatment by parents, teachers, etc. (Stockard & McGee, 1990). Sex differences in occupational values have also been posited to play an important role (Eccles, 1987). The primary purpose of the present studies was to explore the roles of gender cognitions and values in children’s and adults’ occupational interest using correlational and experimental designs. In Study 1, I investigated individuals’ occupational values, gender stereotypes, and occupational interests using a cross-sectional design. Specifically, children (ages 6 to 18) and adults completed surveys assessing their (a) endorsement of occupational values (b) gender stereotyping of occupations, and (c) interest in masculine and feminine occupations. Results indicated significant sex differences in individuals’ occupational interests with males indicating higher levels of interest in masculine occupations than females and females indicating higher levels of interest in feminine occupations than males. In addition, regression analyses determined that values are important predictors of occupational interest. In Study 2, I examined the causal role of gender stereotyping and values in shaping individuals’ occupational interest via an experimental design. Specifically, replicating and extending Liben, Bigler, and Krogh’s (2001) novel job paradigm, children (ages 5 to 10) and adults were exposed to eight novel jobs. Four jobs depicted female workers and four jobs depicted male workers. Within each gender category, each job was characterized by one of four values: family, altruism, money, or power. Results indicated that children and adults were significantly more interested in jobs depicted with same-sex models than jobs depicted with opposite sex models. Results also indicated that among adults, males were significantly more interested in jobs that afford money and power values than females. The results of these studies are likely to have important implications for theoretical models of vocational development and the design of programs aimed at reducing sex-typing of children’s occupational interests.