The Impact of Stereotypes and Self-Concept on Occupational Choices

Kvara Guledani


Job satisfaction is an important part of personal well-being and happiness, which in turn is determined by the compliance of job/profession and personality – we are more satisfied with our job if it fits well with our interests, knowledge, values and self-concept. So, issues connected to professional choices gains more and more interest. Usually, considering the factors that determine professional choices, the main accent is on personality traits, abilities and interests and relatively little attention is paid to such important social factors as socially shared norms and stereotypes about professions, which in turn might be equally influential. In this article professional choice iscomprehended in the theoretical framework of Gottfredson’s Theory of Circumscription and Compromise. According to this theory, our occupational Choices are determined by our self-concept and our occupational stereotypes – what we know about who we are and what we know about which occupations are considered as appropriate and acceptable for us in our society. Depending on this theoretical framework, our main interest was attached to the investigation of gender and prestige stereotypes of occupations and their relationship with occupational choices.
The research has a mixed design – interviews were conducted with field experts for identifying the existing occupational stereotypes in Georgian culture. Depending on the analysis of the interviews it can be assumed that: 1. Professional stereotypes in the Georgian reality repeat the international pattern, according to which professional stereotypes are concentrated around two important variables – gender and social belonging/prestige; 2. Professional stereotypes linked to national minorities do not lose their relevance. 3. There is no consensus among experts on the whole range of issues related to professional stereotypes (for example, where are stereotypes more concentrated and strong – among urban or rural communities? Which age group shares them most?) and more research is needed in this direction; 4. We also see stereotype change tendencies – some professional stereotypes connected to gender and prestige, that were very strong and influential 10-20 years ago, today are considered marginal.
At the next stage of the research, on the basis of qualitative data analysis, was developed a quantitative research instrument – a questionnaire for occupational stereotypes. The main aim of quantitative research was to investigate whether gender/prestige stereotypes of occupations are predictors of gender congruent/prestigious occupational choices. Self-concept and expectations of significant others are considered as variables, which can modify relationships between occupational stereotypes and occupational choices. The total number of participants was 265 – 182 females and 83 males, selected by the convenience sampling method. The research did not confirm the main hypothesis – there was found a weak positive correlation between gender stereotypes of occupations and masculine occupational choice (r=.168, p=.006), but the correlation lost statistical significance when an analysis was conducted separately for males and females. A statistically important relationship between prestige stereotypes and occupational choice were not found either.
Data analysis revealed quite a strange tendency – in our sample the overwhelming majority of men considered masculine professions as prestigious, but, at the same time, the group of men who strongly shared gender professional stereotypes rated their own professions as non-prestigious. It turned out that in our sample those men who shared gender occupational stereotypes had a lower income than those who did not. This evidence made me think that to men who strongly share gender stereotypes (who consider that men should have well-paid, hard and interesting jobs), issues connected to prestige will be more “hurting”, and this tendency of rating their own profession as un-prestigious is a result ofdiscrepancy between “ideal” (men should have well-paid jobs) and their own reality.
According to the results, professional stereotypes were not connected to self-concept, but research revealed interesting associations between expectations of significant others and self-concept. It is important to note that the expectations of general success was significantly greater in case of women (M=52.47, SD=6.05), than of men (M=50.67, SD=5.28),t(263)=2.32, p=0.021, but the tendency has the opposite direction when expectations of success in technical fields are considered. It turned out that in case of women expectations of success in technical fields were connected to prestige aspects of self-concept (r=0.187, n=182, p=0.011), and this pattern was not found in case of men (r=0.144, n=83, p=0.196).
Moreover, in case of men the correlation between expectations of general success and expectations of success in technical fields is negative (r=-0.318, n=83, p=0.003). It can be considered that these results echo the stereotypical beliefs that in case of men, success in technical fields is an ordinary, axiomatic fact and is not considered as a prerequisite of success; while in case of women success in STEM fields is a big deal and is automatically connected to masculine aspects of self-concept.

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