NZFUW President Dorothy Meyer:
Opening Remarks, Introductions 

Woman of Power

 Sylvia Rumball: Conference
                  Opening Speaker
"Educational Pathways to Power"
Professor Hilary M. Lips, Ph.D.

1999 Fulbright NZ-U.S. Award Recipient

Opening Address: 2000 and Beyond: Women in Education
Mid-Term Council Meeting of the New Zealand Federation of University Women
Copyright 1999 H. Lips. All rights reserved
February 19, 1999

Hilary M. Lips ~ Department of Psychology
Radford University
Radford, Virginia 24142
     Let me begin by saying how very pleased and honored I am to be here and to be a part of the process of looking at the very important issues surrounding women in education. I offer my thanks to Dorothy Meyer, who spearheaded this visit, and to all of you for your hospitality.
     Two years ago, a young woman in my social psychology class wrote a short essay in response to my assignment to write something about "violating a social norm". Here is a portion of what she wrote:


     During my second semester ... I chose my major as chemistry/Pre-pharmacy, not realizing that I was going against the "rules" of what men and women should study. I am young, female, and fairly attractive. For some reason, people find it amazing that I chose my field of study, and even hold it against me.
     My family expected me to be a teacher or nurse, ignoring my high ambitions and achievements. They were amazed when I did well in college math and chemistry, and found my choice of major distasteful. My grandmother (who refuses to see a female physician) tried to convince me to change my major, and tells me that I will never make it to or through pharmacy school because of my sex.
     When complete strangers see me reading my organic chemistry book where I work, they also find it necessary to advise me. Comments range from curious ("what made you choose chemistry?") to anxious ("You, unlike the rest of us, must have brains") to outright rude ("Someone like you should leave that stuff to the boys"). One older man even went so far as to tell me what I, a "pretty young woman" should be studying!
     As a result, I have lost pride in my grades, my future, and my college career. I have, however, found a way to deal with it. I'm changing my major to nutrition.

     When I read this essay, I was transported uncomfortably back to my own years as an undergraduate, when I too had been a would-be chemistry major. During my first year, I remembered, the rector of the science faculty had systematically called each one of us few female students into his office for a talk during which he informed us gently that science was no place for women, and that we should consider changing to another program. We rebellious young women laughed about this together later mocking his old-fashioned notions and the very idea that he would expect us to change our aspirations. Yet not one of us today has an advanced degree in the natural or physical sciences. We did not understand then that the cumulative effect of many pessimistic messages and obstacles would eventually influence each one of us to take a path that led away from chemistry, physics, mathematics into fields where we did not always feel we had to defend ourselves.
     Has so very little changed since my own undergraduate days? Despite the analysis and effort that have been channeled into the problem of "getting more women in to the science pipeline," do young women still feel rebuffed by these fields? Do they still feel they must reject these fields as possible for them? I am going to show you some data that suggest that indeed they do but first let me turn the focus to a different set of aspirations.
     A couple of years ago, in the first phase of my research on powerful possible selves, I asked a group of women students to try to imagine themselves as political leaders and to describe what they imagined. A number of them were quite emphatic in their statements about why it was difficult to imagine themselves in such as position. Here are some of their comments:


I have an aversion to it.
It would be a nightmare.
I am not that cruel.
They are all untrustworthy people.
It would make me feel like a failure.
     Obviously, if we are interested in encouraging young women to imagine themselves in a wide range of possible careers, the physical sciences are not the only problem. Whenever I listen to my students talk about their futures, I am struck with the impression that young women and men are still, with society's "help," constructing different possibilities for themselves.
     So here we are, at a time when access to education for girls and women is increasingly recognized as a necessary pathway to economic success, to power and influence over the directions that our world is taking. We have seen enrollments of women in universities climb to over 50% of all students in many countries such as Canada, the United States, Cuba, Nicaragua, Denmark, Estonia, Poland, New Zealand and Australia, to name just a few (although women make up far less than half -- more like 20-30% -- of all university students in many other countries, according to UNESCO statistics). Yet, even in countries where women have claimed their half of the places in higher education, female students often continue to be concentrated in "traditional" feminine disciplines. I believe that we need to attend to this issue if we want women to reach their potential and to have their legitimate share of influence in the global community.
     I have been engaged for many years in studying the choices and directions that young women and men at the college level construct for themselves. Today, I am going to talk about some research that I have pursued on students' academic self-views. I will be showing you findings that suggest that gender stereotyping is still thriving among the university students of today at least in North America. Then I will discuss the implications of these findings, showing how the very fields that women apparently feel they must avoid are the ones that lead to positions of influence in society. Finally, I will examine some of the reasons behind young women's and men's different conceptions of possibility for themselves. Academic Self-Views
     I have been examining university students's academic self-views: their sense of what fields they are good at and enjoy in the academic environment. Of course, one of the reasons for the research interest in academic self-views is that such self-perceptions are assumed to relate to academic choices and academic achievement. Not only one's views one's current abilities and interests, but also one's views of what is possible for oneself may be important in understanding academic choices and achievement. Theorists propose that each of us has many "possible selves:" concrete, individual, personalized representations of the self as it could be in the future (Markus & Nurius, 1986). For example, I may be able to picture myself as the head of my own business, as an opera singer, as an award-winning writer, but not as an airline pilot. That would mean I had possible selves for the first three roles, but not for the last one. How do we develop possible selves? One way is through exposure to role models. Thus, for example, some years ago, many young girls and women in the United States might have developed a possible self as a political leader when Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president.
     What difference might it make to have a particular possible self? A possible self is thought to have an energizing and organizing effect on the individual's actions (Markus et al, 1990). If an individual has a hoped-for possible self, s/he should be motivated to engage in behaviors that would help to attain that possible self. For instance, having a hoped-for possible self as, say, a physicist, would make taking physics courses and studying hard in physics more important and useful and perhaps even more enjoyable. However, a possible self apparently does not develop just because someone holds views of her current abilities that may be consistent with it.
     I compared the career aspirations of groups of young women and men who were high or low on their self-described inclination toward mathematics and science. Both women and men who held a view of themselves as currently inclined toward math and science rated themselves high on the likelihood of a career in mathematics, statistics or computer science. However, the same positive inclination toward math and science was linked to a high likelihood of a career in the physical sciences or engineering only for men. [OVERHEAD: Table 2: Summary of Bifurcation paper, Lips, 1993].
     It appears that, despite their current-self perceptions as positively inclined toward mathematics and science, the women in this study could not, or would not, construct possible selves in the realm of engineering and the physical sciences perhaps because such possible selves were at odds with their notions about femininity, or perhaps because they had no female role models in these areas to help them articulate a possible self. Clearly, in the case of these young women, it would do little good to try to change their current-self perceptions with respect to math and science. They already see themselves as good at and interested in these areas. What would perhaps be useful is finding ways to help these students envision themselves as physical scientists and engineers to give them the tools to construct possible selves in these areas.
     The research I am now doing with my students represents an attempt to better understand the links between current and possible academic self-views and, eventually, the connections among these self-views and students' academic choices and performance. Importantly, it also addresses the question of the role played by gender-related stereotypes and expectations in these relationships.

Lips Academic Self-View Survey
     In this research we have used a questionnaire called the Lips Academic Self-View Survey (LASS) consists of three parts.
There is a current-self section, containing 30 items relevant to ability in and enjoyment of activities relevant to academic performance. Each item is rated on a scale ranging from "not me" to "definitely me." There is also a possible-self section, consisting of 16 items that refer to pursuing further studies in particular academic areas. For each item, the respondent is asked to indicate the extent to which pursuing further studies in that area is a "possible me," with responses ranging from "not a possible me" to "definitely a possible me." The third section of the survey, consists of 10 items that refer to particular future roles (e.g., successful, widely known writer). We have now collected data from students at 3 U.S. colleges and 2 Canadian universities.

Gender and current selves.
     An examination of the individual items on the current self section of the LASS shows that the patterns are highly similar and fit the patterns expected for traditional gender stereotypes. For example, the following graphs show the gendered patterns of self-endorsement on math/number descriptors for the three samples. [OVERHEADS: Current self-endorsements: Math/number descriptors; RU;
ALSO SEE OVERHEADS of RU Students' Current-self: Science descriptors,
and Current-self: Limited Ability descriptors for RU Students].

Gender and possible selves.
     With respect to the possible self items of the LASS, analyses show that patterns appear to be in line with gender stereotypes [OVERHEAD: Comparison of women's & men's possible academic self means -Note Available]. Men assign a stronger possibility than women do to pursuing further studies in physical sciences (all 3 samples), business, engineering, math-stats, law, computer science, resource management (2 samples), and planetary science (1 sample). Women assign a stronger possibility than men do to pursuing further studies in fine arts, social behavioral sciences (2 samples), teaching and health studies (1 sample).

Current self themes and patterns.
     [OVERHEAD: Composites of current-self items - Not Available]. To examine themes and patterns in these data, we grouped individual items into compositions (or composites) with particular themes. Time does not allow me to explain in detail how we did this, but let me just say that we created a Math Composition (encompassing responses having to do with math and numbers and a Literary/Writing Composition (encompassing responses having to do with writing), as well as several other compositions that reflected particular themes. These proved to be very reliable. We then examined the patterns of responses by women and men in terms of these dimensions.
     The pattern of results is nearly identical in all three samples that we have studied: In each case men are seen to score higher on masculine-stereotyped compositions (Math, Science, Arguing) and women are seen to score higher on feminine-stereotyped compositions (Literary/Writing, Art, Communication).
     Finally, we joined these compositions together to reflect the two broad themes of academic self-views that differentiated women and men; the Math-Science Composition (a combination of all math and science items), and the Literary/Art/Communication Composition (a combination of all items concerning writing, art, and working with people). We found that women scored lower on the Math-Science Composite and higher on the Literary/Art/Communication Composite in every sample.
     Clearly there is (still) a broad and reliable gender difference in the way students view their current academic selves.

Possible-self themes and patterns.
     [OVERHEAD: possible self composites -Not Available] As we had done with the current self items, we looked at broad themes in the "possible self" scores. Thus, we constructed compositions reflecting Natural Science, Business, Humanities, and Social dimensions. What we found is that women scored higher on the Humanities and Social composites and men scored higher on the Natural Science and Business composites.
     We then grouped the items even more broadly to form two dimensions one of which was the encompassed all math-, science-, computing- and law-related items (which I call the Power dimension -- for reasons that will later become clear) and the other of which encompassed all items related to humanities, fine arts, education, and social-behavioral studies (which I call the People dimension). Once again, across the 5 samples the women rated themselves more strongly on the People dimension and men rated themselves more strongly on the Power dimension.

Relationship between current and possible selves.
     Do students' current and possible self-views relate to each other? To answer this question, we looked at the relationships between the dimensions that we identified in the students' answers to the current self and possible self sections of the questionnaire. The current self Math/Science dimension was positively associated with the possible self Math/Science dimension in each of the five samples; it was also clearly positively linked with the possible self "Power" dimension in each of the five samples.
     On the other hand, the current-self Literary/Art /Communication dimension was negatively related to the same two possible-self dimensions.
     If we focus on the possible-self "People" dimension, we see that it is significantly negatively associated with the Math/Science current-self dimension and significantly positively associated with the Literary/Art/Communication current-self dimension.
     Clearly, the students' perceptions of their current academic selves are linked to their visions of what is possible for them in the future. Also, very clearly, there is a strong divide between two groups of academic areas one emphasizing science, numbers, reasoning and argument, and the other emphasizing culture, people, and self-expression such that perceiving oneself as oriented toward one group is strongly and reliably negatively associated with perceiving oneself as oriented toward the other. And this divide parallels gender stereotypes. [OVERHEAD: Current self & possible self composite streams]

    It appears that the genders differ in their academic self-construals, particularly with respect to possible selves, and that the differences parallel traditional gender stereotypes.
     Moreover, the two genders differ in ways that propel them systematically along differing career paths. Women are on paths to teaching, health care, social science, fine arts; while men are on paths that will lead to careers in science, business, engineering, law.
     What, really, is the problem? Why does it matter if women and men are using higher education as a gateway to different career paths?
     It matters because these gender-differentiated career paths differ in the way they lead, or do not lead, to positions of power and influence. It is not simply that women are excluded from the upper echelons of science when they follow these paths, but that they are also excluded from a wide variety of positions in which they could make a difference, gain a better share of resources, use their influence to help other women.
     Let us look at political leadership, for example. What is the educational background of the average person who holds political office?
     To take one example: Three-quarters of the members of the U.S. Congress come from careers in banking, business or law. Lawyers, while comprising only 0.1 percent of the workforce, made up 45.6 percent of the members of Congress in 1993 (Canon, 1995). Careers in agriculture and engineering are also significantly represented (Orenstein, Mann, Malbin, & Bibby, 1993). Careers in which women specialize, such as education, are not.
     Knowing this, we went to our possible self data and constructed a "Politician" composition, made up of these very themes: the possibilities of pursuing further study in business, law, engineering and renewable resources (which includes agriculture). Men's average possible-self ratings for each of these individual domains is higher than women's, and men's ratings are significantly higher than women's for the Politician composition in all samples. [OVERHEAD: Common gateways to political leadership].

     We can do a similar examination of the careers of individuals who are the CEO's of Fortune 500 companies. Most of these people do not have university degrees in liberal arts, psychology, music, cultural studies. Most, in fact, have academic backgrounds in business, economics, engineering, and/or computing.(slide18)
     We constructed a possible self CEO composition, again made up of themes that appear to be related to following a pathway to a top business career: the possibilities of pursuing further study in business, mathematics, engineering, computing, and law. [OVERHEAD: Gateways to corporate CEO leadership]. Men rate themselves higher than women on all of these individual possible self items. On the CEO composition that we created, men's self-ratings are significantly higher than women's.

     So now perhaps it is clear why I referred to the possible self dimension that includes the math, science, business, and law items as the "Power" dimension. Gender is associated with a set of current-self perceptions which, in turn, are linked to a set of possible-selves that are gateways to careers with influence and power. [OVERHEAD: Chart of how it all fits together - not available.
     What is making it difficult for women to imagine themselves in these roles? One obvious factor is a shortage of women as role models in these areas.
     Let's look for a moment at the example of women in politics. Women have occasionally headed countries as monarchs: for instance, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria of England, Catherine the Great of Russia. However, the first woman elected to lead a nation appears to have been Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who became prime minister of what is now Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) in 1960. From 1960 until 1997, only 31 women around the world were elected or appointed as heads of state (Neft & Levine, 1997). Now we have a few new ones, one of which is here in New Zealand[OVERHEAD - HEADS OF STATE, not available]
     With respect to women in business, the picture is hardly less gloomy. Researchers from Catalyst find that, in the United States, women make up just 5.3% of line corporate officers (i.e., roles that traditionally lead to the top executive positions) and 2.5% of the top earners in Fortune 500 companies. Even among these top-earning corporate officers, women earn 68 cents in salary and bonus to every dollar earned by men.
     What about women in science? In 1997,UNESCO initiated the Helena Rubenstein awards for women in science. In order to identify possible laureates, a study was undertaken over 18 months, using scientific journals to find the women scientists most often quoted by their colleagues. Out of more than 54,000 quotes, only 0.17% (i.e., less than 2 tenths of one percent) mentioned work conducted by women.
     One conclusion I draw from the research I have been doing and the findings I have discussed today is that it may be a lot more difficult than we used to assume to make big progress in recognizing, developing, and employing the talents of women and men in ways that fairly reflect the distribution of those talents. All the research I have done speaks to the continuing pervasiveness of gender stereotypes with respect to competence and the wide array of forces that operate to keep those stereotypes in place.
     I am mindful as well of just how easily such messages are absorbed. While I was preparing this paper, one of my departmental colleagues told me the story of his daughter, who, when in first grade, came home from school one day to announce to her parents that she was "just average" in math. Concerned, her father asked her how she had come to this conclusion. It emerged that her teacher had given a 15-minute test at school, and children whose scores fell in a certain range had been told that their math ability was "average." Her father, a psychologist who is well aware of the potential validity and reliability problems of a single unproven test, tried his best to dissuade his daughter of the idea that she should accept the teacher's label for her. However, in the daughter's eyes, the teacher was the expert, and her father never prevailed. In fact, he said, for the rest of her elementary and high school education, she continued to hold the belief that her math abilities were "just average".
     In the long run, perhaps the most important issue here is not simply gender, but the idea that it is important to keep people from having to close off possibilities for themselves before they have had a chance to explore them fairly. People may do, or be encouraged or even forced to do, such closing off because of their gender, their race, their class, their nationality, their appearance, or a variety of other characteristics. In many parts of the world, women and members of various minority groups have been blatantly excluded from a wide range of possibilities. But simply taking away such obvious restrictions and barriers is clearly not enough to empower women or other groups who have been affected by them.

     Young women in large numbers will not construct possible selves as scientists, as political or business leaders, as holders of high levels of public responsibility, power and influence just because we tell them it's OK. They must see other women doing it, doing it well, and not being punished for it by the loss of their friends and family and the ridicule of the media. When more women stand in front of university students to teach physics and chemistry as full professors, when more women"experts" are interviewed respectfully on television news programs, when more women are elected to political office, when more women have their creative and scholarly work recognized, then and only then will young women in significant numbers expand their sense of possibility.
Closing Scenes
Closing Ceremony
and Thank You
By: Molly Mabee

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