Do Gender Differences in Vocational Choice Result from the Need for Social Approval?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: Harbor Lounge A
Oral Presentation
Verena EBERHARD , Inst Vocational Education & Training , Bonn, Germany
Joachim Gerd ULRICH , Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), Bonn, Germany
Gender segregation among occupations which can be traced back to gender specific vocational choice leads to gender inequality in the labor market. According to Gottfredson’s (1981) theory of vocational choice and role identity theory (Stryker & Burke, 2000) gender differences in occupational choice appear because gender is a significant part of the self-concept. Since adolescents attempt to fulfill social expectations regarding gender roles they choose occupations in which persons of their own sex are predominant. By doing this, we assume, young persons try to receive social approval from significant others in order to develop and enhance their self-concept.

To test the hypothesis whereby gender specific vocational choice is driven by the fundamental human need for social approval we used data from a representative survey of 4.621 applicants for vocational training in Germany in 2010. Within this survey participants were asked to anticipate the reaction of their social environment if they would choose a specific occupation. The adolescents assessed 16 different occupations varying with regard to status and sex ratio. Furthermore the participants provided information about the occupations they had actually applied for.

Using regression models, we firstly demonstrated that young persons anticipate social approval from significant others more likely if the assessed occupation is appropriate to their sex. Secondly, we showed that the likelihood for applying for a job is influenced by the adolescents’ expectation about how their social environment will react upon their occupational choice.

The results indicate that adolescents use vocational choice as a tool to gain credit and avoid blame by showing gender appropriate behavior.

Gottfredson, L.S. (1981). Circumscription and Compromise: A Developmental Theory of Occupational Aspirations. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 28(6), 545-579.

Stryker S. & Burke, P.J. (2000). The Past, Present, and Future of an Identity Theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63(4), 284-297.