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Counseling and Career [Self] Development of Women

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Counselors today need to be concerned about the career development of women as well as the career development of men. For, as we are well aware, women do not exist in a vacuum or make decisions in a vacuum; what women do and can do affects and is affected by the perceptions and actions of men. By the same token, the limitations put on female development also create obstacles and prescriptions for the way men act, behave, and grow. Yet, it seems appropriate that special focus on the career planning and counseling process for women is justified at this point in time, though perhaps it will not be necessary in another 12 or 15 years. And perhaps, as human liberationists have pointed out, both men and women eventually will have more options open to them as a result of the current attention to the concerns and development of girls and women.

It is an underlying assumption of this article that both men and women can have greater control over their lives and development if both males and females, counselors and teachers all accept some responsibility for doing something about women's untapped resources, talents, and potentials. It would seem logical that counselors, who are supposed to be facilitators of human growth and development, should be key persons in bringing about changes in this area, in public school, college, and vocational school settings, not only through counseling but also through curriculum interventions and consultation with teachers. This article attempts to make a case for such interventions by (1) reviewing some of the literature on female self-concepts, career patterns, and aspirations; (2) summarizing the facts about women in the work force and obstacles to women's career development; (3) suggesting practical approaches to facilitate female development through counseling and curriculum; and (4) offering a few multimedia resources to assist in the above task.

Occupational Distribution



One of the hard realities is that women who are working are concentrated in a few occupations; many of them low-paying, low-level and dead-end. Although the Dictionary of Occupational Titles has classified approximately 23,000 different occupations in the United States, one-third of all working women are concentrated in only seven of them: retail sales clerk, secretary, household worker, elementary school teacher, bookkeeper, waitress, and nurse. An additional one-third are found in 20 occupations: for example, typist, cashier, cook, telephone operator, babysitter, assembler, hairdresser, stenographer, high school teacher, practical nurse, receptionist, maid, and file clerk (Bern and Bern, 1971). Only four million women-15 per cent of all women workers-are professional or technical workers: women comprise only 7 per cent of the physicians, 3 per cent of the lawyers, 1 per cent of the engineers. The proportion of women in professional jobs has declined over the past 30 years, from 45 per cent in 1940 to 37 per cent in 1969. Three of four clerical workers are women. The average full-time female worker makes three-fifths of the earnings of the full-time male worker in all occupational levels and fields. A more detailed presentation of these statistics appears in Kreps' (1971) Sex in the Marketplace: American Women at Work and Kievit et al. (1972) Women in the World of Work as well as in numerous pamphlets published by the Labor Department. Such are the realities of women and work.

Practical Approaches to Facilitate Female Career Development

One of the things we know from organizational change literature is that it is futile to offer solutions before people recognize there is a problem. Unfortunately, to many parents and educators in higher education as well as K-12 settings, concern about women's career development is still considered a "ha-ha." It is an assumption of this paper that counselors view it as more than a "ha-ha."

Counselor Attitudes

Counselors have been indicted in the professional literature as being sexist. While we need much more data on this (and I do not assume that counselors are any more or less sexist than people in general), several studies have supported these charges. Thomas and Stewart (1971) found that secondary school counselors responded more positively to female clients with traditional (feminine) goals than to female clients with deviant (masculine) goals. Pietrofesa and Schlossberg (1973) found differences in counselor attitudes toward women entering "masculine" occupations. Fridersdorf (1973) examined attitudes of male and female secondary counselors toward college-bound and non-college-bound girls and found males with more traditional expectations about female occupational choices. Bingham and House (1973a) found counselors to be misinformed on women's occupational status (on such issues as women in the work force, discrimination against women, income discrepancies, and the probability of women getting leadership jobs). Male counselors were found to be less well informed than female counselors (on such issues as the occupational alternatives needed by women, their general ability, women's ability to fill both worker and mother roles, and length of time in labor force). In a follow-up study on counselor attitudes toward women and work, the investigators (1973b) found that substantial numbers of male counselors had negative attitudes and agreed with such statements as "training women for high-level jobs is wasteful", "married men should receive more pay than single women doing the same work" and "boys should be better educated than girls". They also felt that motherhood is the primary function of woman. Hawley's study (1972), in contrast, suggested that female counselors hold a wider view of the roles of women. Such studies point up the need for counselors to become aware of their own attitudes and practices and ways in which these limit options for female clients.

Curriculum Interventions

The foregoing suggests modifications of traditional counselor roles in interviewing, in test interpretation, in career information, and in parent counseling. The other major thrust toward which counselors are moving today is a more central and direct involvement with curriculum, particularly through working with teachers in new ways. There seems to be a lot of support at every level of the educational process for counselors to move in the direction of outreach programs, to become a part of the mainstream of the teaching-learning process, and to take active leadership in changing the school system to more effectively promote the positive growth and development of students.

Career development or guidance-based career education offers an excellent vehicle for counselors to have some significant inputs. Since women, like minorities, by and large have been outside the educational and opportunity structure, special attention of counselors needs to be directed at this point in time to helping to eliminate the barriers and open up more opportunities. In a recent non-yet-finalized APGA Position Paper on ''Counselor Role in Career Education," Hoyt (1974) recommends leadership in eliminating sexism and racism in career opportunity as one of six major counselor roles.

Elsewhere I have presented a career development conceptual framework for facilitating female growth (Hansen, 1974). I would like to summarize it here. Such a framework is totally appropriate if one accepts the broad definition of career development as self-development over the life span. In our work on the Career Development Curriculum (CDC) at the University of Minnesota, Wes Tennyson, Mary Klaurens, and I have built on the concept of career development as a lifelong process of self-clarification, as a consequence of positions one holds in a lifetime, as the various choices and decisions one makes to implement a life style, and the ways work and leisure fit in with the kind of person one perceives herself or himself to be. This definition assumes that consideration of work is intimately related to family roles and patterns and to matters of career-marriage conflict and commitment. Drawing from career development theorists and development psychology, the definition includes such career management tasks as developing positive self-concepts, gaining control over one's life, and maximizing vocational possibilities; such as goals as awareness of self, awareness of preferred life styles, formulation of tentative career goals, clarification of the decision process, obtaining employability skills, interpersonal skills, a sense of planfulness, and commitment with tentativeness within a changing world (Tennyson, Hansen, Klaurens, in press).

A Conceptual Framework

The CDC is a comprehensive unified curriculum model, presently K-12, to be used by counselors and teachers in implementing career education programs. An interdisciplinary staff refined a set of career management tasks for the primary, intermediate, junior high, and senior high years, developed performance objectives appropriate for the various life stages, and suggested enabling objectives to reach them. A number of supplementary objectives relating to emerging life patterns of women were incorporated into the curriculum model, many of them relating to men as well. The objectives provide a framework for sequential, developmental experiences for boys and girls, a guide from which resourceful teachers and counselors can create their own lesson plans and learning activities. Although there are many innovative women's programs, units, and courses emerging throughout the country at various levels of school systems, few have attempted to build their efforts around a theoretical framework of career development. Since the CDC is only a conceptual model (intended for students in general), the intervention strategies have yet to be developed. A few resource guides for teachers and counselors are available under such titles as "Life Styles and Work", "Self-Concept Exploration", "Women and the World of Work", "Value Identification" and "The Social Contribution of Work" (Minnesota Department of Education, 1972).
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