Linda Gottfredson is a psychological theorist who works in the area of gender roles and careers. She begins with four major assumptions: the career development process begins in childhood; career aspirations are attempts to implement one’s self-concept (social components of self-concept include self-perceptions of intelligence, social status, and gender, psychological components of self-concept include values and personality); (3) career satisfaction is dependent on the degree to which the career is congruent with self-perceptions; and (4) people develop occupational stereotypes that guide them in the selection process. This theory has stimulated a large amount of research and serves as the basis for programs that attempt to reduce sex-typing of careers.
When choosing an occupation, is selected and organized by first the masculinity or femininity of the occupation. This means that even if a “manly man” really wanted to teach kindergarten, he likely would choose older grades or school administration. Similarly, most housecleaners, daycare workers, and secretaries are women, and construction workers, truck drivers, and plumbers are men.
The second area of consideration for a person choosing a job is the prestige of the occupation, including brainpower or ability necessary to complete job. Jobs that have a traditional male or female component can change as the prestige changes. For example, nurses used to be almost exclusively female. As nursing has become better paying, required more school, and involved more decision making power, more men have been attracted to the profession. Similarly, women are more and more attracted to formerly male-dominated fields, such as medicine and law.
The third and least important area is fields of work, which includes a person’s interest and personality. A person interested in geology or office work, finance or physical movement, can find a job in that field. However, their actual profession is often circumscribed by their gender-related choices.
People choose a job based on their compatibility with the occupation that are also accessible, or that the work is available, educational opportunities exist, and there is a lack of discrimination. As children develop and grow, they narrow their career options to choices compatible with their self-concept, unless an intervention takes place to adjust a child’s self-concept or concept of the career.
The final choice is usually a compromise between effort required, prestige level, and sex-type. When compromising, they give first consideration to sex roles, then prestige, then their interests and the effort required.
When choosing a career or directing others in the direction of their life’s work, the wise person will give help to those who show interest and aptitude in nontraditional careers to go forward with these plans, including taking sex-stereotyped classes such as shop or sewing. They can encourage people, including themselves, who may have eliminated suitable careers because of narrow ideas of compatibility to reexamine their career goals.
Resources: Gottfredson, L. S. (1996). Gottfredson's theory of circumscription and compromise. In D. Brown, & L. Brooks, (Eds.), Career choice and development (3rd ed.), pp. 179-232. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.