Wilkes, John M.
Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, Worcester, Mass
Last year the Worcester City Manager's Advisory Committee on the Status of Women (ACSW) sponsored a gender comparative study of the career aspirations of all the high school Juniors (at public and private high schools). The results suggested that females were much more interested in the professions than the males, but focused on law and medicine. The technical professions remained male domains, and teaching and social services female domains. Interest in business careers was approaching a 50/50 balance. Gender was a far more important predictor of career aspirations in the private/parochial schools than in the private/secular and public schools. Still, the overall finding was that the data from the public and private schools was quite similar, surprisingly so. The implications of these trends and findings were sufficiently great that the ACSW sponsored three more teams this year to see if these findings would replicate. The private school study teams decided to expand their studies by adding a new variable, gender identity (masculine or feminine as culturally defined), operationalized by Sandra Bern. This is the report of the private high school replication study, augmented by the new Bern Sex Role Inventory variable. In the main, the pattern of career aspiration findings from last year have replicated. In addition, we now know that it is the surprisingly large minority group of masculine identity females (twice the size of feminine identity males) that is the vanguard of progress toward gender equity in still primarily male fields. What is special about medicine and law is the shift in aspirations of large numbers of feminine identity females to enter into these fields as well. The social definition of these fields seems to have changed -- at least as the oncoming generation of students now in high school see them. It is what they think that matters most in terms of gender equity in the professions a decade or two from now.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
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Social Science and Policy Studies