Date of Award

8-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Jacob J. Levy

Committee Members

Shawn L. Spurgeon, Eric D. Sundstrom, Dawn M. Syzmanski

Abstract

This study examined whether career counselors differ in their recommendations for a STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering, mathematics) career (specifically, computer scientist) based on the gender of the client. In a randomized two group experimental design with a qualitative component, a fictitious student bio was created in order to understand the possible conceptualization differences seen between career counselors in regards to gender bias in the STEM fields. The primary research questions looked at whether participants were less likely to recommend the female student, compared to the male, to a STEM related career and to pursue graduate school. A secondary research question was utilized to investigate the thought process underlying counselors’ recommendations. Participants (n=129) ranged from ages 23-71, were primarily female (78.3%, n=101), had a Master’s degree in a helping profession (70.5%, n=91), and were White (75.2%, n=97). Results of the primary research questions through a one-way MANOVA were seen as non-significant (n=129), Wilks’ λ = .992, F (3, 125) = 0.353, p = 0.787, partial eta squared = .008. The qualitative themes identified in the participants’ responses for their reasoning for the “top 3” and “bottom 3” careers recommended were: Student Profile Components, Strong Interest Inventory Results, Assumed Student Traits & Activities, and Further Exploration Needed. Interpretation of these results shows that the use of a standardized measure provides a protective factor against the implicit gender bias typically seen in other areas of academia and the workplace for women. The follow-up question also revealed, that while the majority of participants showed no gender bias differences in their recommendations, they also failed to consider gender in the conceptualization of the student profile. This shows a “gender blind” component that does not follow the multicultural awareness approach that counselors are currently trained in and what is necessary if counselors desire to help support females interested in STEM. Future studies should investigate career counselor bias utilizing different STEM careers and possibly an in-person interaction in order to pull at different biases and more intersectional identity elements (i.e., race and gender).

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