Factors associated with women's decision to leave a male-dominated major and enter a female-dominated major

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1993
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Virginia Tech
Abstract

This exploratory study investigated the crucial role society and individual college cultures played in selecting and channeling women from male-dominated to female-dominated majors. Since academic major is linked to the kind of vocation a person pursues, scarcity of women in certain majors constitutes an obstacle to opportunity in the work force. Literature was used to develop questions for interview protocol to identify reasons for college women's decision to leave a male-dominated major and enter a female-dominated major. The interviews provided self-report information from college women transfers from the College of Engineering, College of Business, and College of Architecture to the College of Human Resources and revealed six factors that explained their decisions. These factors were classroom environment, faculty behaviors, peer relations, curriculum content, performance pressures, and role expectations. These factors were interdependent though each played a significant role in explaining the women's decisions. Additionally, women's decision to leave a male-dominated major and enter a female-dominated major was a function of affirmation of self and was derived from the six environmental factors. The degree of interaction congruence between the student and each of these factors affected affirmation of self and how women evaluated and responded to their environment. Lastly, applications for educational practitioners were offered and recommendations for further research were suggested.

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