Date of Award

1978

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Bernice Lott

Abstract

To date, no study of occupationally asextypical women has compared a group of women in predominantly male fields to women of equal education in predominantly female fields. The correlates of academic attainment and atypicality of career choice are therefore confounded in the literature. The purpose of the present study was twofold. The first was to determine whether there would be correlates of asextypicality above and beyond those related to academic achievement and to determine the nature of these, in a design comparing asextypical professional women to their equally educated sextypical counterparts. A secondary purpose was to see if Bern's finding of an association between low sex-typing on the Bern Sex Role Inventory and willingness to engage in cross-sex laboratory behavior would generalize to asextypical occupational behavior, and to experiment with the use of situation-specific instructions on the BSRI in the process.

Participants were recruited from a variety of agencies, industries, and other sources in the Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts area. For inclusion, women were required to be American-born, under 50, employed at least 20 hours weekly in either sextypical or asextypical employment, and to have earned the masters degree in 1974 or earlier. The 166 recruits were each sent a data package which they were to return by mail and which included, (1) the Bern Sex Role Inventory (three instructional sets, “On the job” and “in a social situation" self-descriptions and "your ideal woman” (2) biographical questionnaire, and (3) the Cattell 16PF, Form A. Eighty-two percent, or 135 women returned the data package.

Both groups were found to be characterized by factors consonant with their high level of education, for example, high parental education, high family stability, adequate SES, white race, and family values consistent with upward mobility and academic success. Relative to women in general, both groups tended to score high on such competency-related traits on the Cattell as intelligence, forthrightness, self-sufficiency, and assertiveness. On the BSRI both groups tended to be highly androgynous, showing almost equal and high endorsement of positive items of both masculine and feminine stereotypes.

In comparison with the sextypical women, the asextypical women were younger, more likely to be firstborn, to have had working mothers, and to mention males as important influences on their career development. Trends suggesting higher achievement motivation in asextypical women and greater conventionality amongt he sextypical women were also noted. On the Cattell, the asextypical women showed more extreme scores on competencyrelated traits, though in general, the significant group differences were more related to the role expectations and behaviors appropriate to the respective work involvements of the two groups. On the BSRI, the asextypical women tended to be androgynous but slightly more sex-reversed than their sextypical counterparts, with significant group differences resulting from slightly lower endorsement of feminine items.

Group differences are discussed in terms of the “enrichment hypothesis" of Almquist and Angrist. The data suggest that the asextypical women may have more frequently experienced family situations which encouraged the development of broad sex-ro1es, higher achievement motivation, greater valuing of “male” as well as “female” activities, and greater comfort and self-confidence in engaging in traditionally male achievement areas. In addition, the asextypical women have more frequently been exposed to a cultural environment enriched by feminist ideology.

In terms of the BSRI the results of the present study support Bem’s association between low sex-typing and cross-sex behavior. High academic attainment can be seen as asextypical for women, and both groups tended to be androgynous in their self-descriptions on the BSRI. The women doubly engaged in cross-sex behavior, by virtue of their asextypical career choice, were even less sex-typed. The use of the BSRI with situation-specific instructions was supported, with significant effects of Instructions found for Masculinity, Femininity, and Androgyny scores, raising questions about the more standard use of the BSRI with global self-description instructions.

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