ERIC Identifier: ED304627
Publication Date: 1988-00-00
Author: Hansen, Sunny - Harless, Deb
Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Sex Equity in Guidance and Counseling. Highlights: An ERIC/CAPS
Societal changes over the past 15 years have brought a new awareness of the
need to expand opportunities for women and minorities. Sex equity received a big
boost with the passage of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Women's
Educational Equity Act. Several legislative and private initiatives gave impetus
to the creation of hundreds of programs in schools, colleges, and communities to
reduce bias and expand options for girls and women (McCune & Matthews,
1978). These have been complemented in recent years by a few programs which
address new options for boys and men. It is the purpose of this document to
highlight progress in sex equity, including current status and trends, and the
role of counselors and educators as change agents in reducing sex bias.
There seems to be agreement that
counselors should play a major role in helping to remove barriers and create
options for both sexes and that nonsexist counseling is essential for optimal
growth of students. Yet, it is clearly not the role of counselors alone. Indeed,
all types of personnel have collaborated or worked independently to achieve sex
equity. Project BORN FREE (Build Options, Reassess Norm, Free Roles through
Educational Equity), a multimedia training program for counselors and educators
working with children, youth, and adults, was one of the first to link career
development, sex-role stereotyping, and social change and to emphasize changes
in roles of both women and men (Hansen, 1981). While interest grew in sex-equity
throughout the 70's, by the 80's, a call for new school reform totally ignored
sex equity issues, and from 1980 on, emphasis on sex equity in education began
to diminish. While much progress had been made, the problem was far from
There is no doubt that new options have
opened up for women and that the equity gap has begun to close in secondary
school subjects, in higher education access, and in the workforce (NACWEP,
1988). Nonetheless, problems remain, especially for girls and women who are
minorities, poor, disabled, and outside the opportunity structure. Counselors
and educators are in a position to provide clients and students with realistic
information concerning future life role options and to help them with adequate
preparation for these future roles. In doing so, it is essential that counselors
and educators possess accurate information on important societal trends. Recent
data indicate that:
-- Women today comprise 44% of the labor force;
-- The average woman can be expected to work about 30 years of her life;
-- In 1986, of the married couples with families, over half were dual earner
-- Most single parent families are maintained by women (Women, Public Policy,
and Development Project, 1987).
-- In the year 2000, 80% of new entrants into the workforce will be women,
minorities, and immigrants (Gallup, 1988).
ADOLESCENT SEX-ROLE ATTITUDES
While the interventions of
the past 15 years doubtless have had an impact on sex equity (and program
evaluations and statistics attest to this), there is abundant evidence that the
impact of socialization on sex-role attitude is deepseated (Hansen, 1984), and a
huge gap still remains between attitudes and reality. For example, according to
recent studies, the expectations of adolescents and young adults concerning
their future life roles are in sharp contrast with the statistics on current
societal realities. When Herzog and Bachman (1982) investigated the sex-role
attitudes of 3,000 high school seniors, they found relatively traditional
attitudes toward family roles. Both males and females were opposed to women with
small children working outside the home. They also expected a traditional
division of labor, with women primarily responsible for the children and men
bearing financial responsibility for the family. Similar findings are reported
in an extensive study of 14-18 year old Minnesota high school students regarding
their plans for future educational, work, and family roles (Hedin, Erickson,
Simon, & Walker, 1985). These studies, and numerous others, have shown that
young people's career choices still reflect stereotypical views of what is
appropriate for their gender, although they may know a wide range of choices is
open to them. Discrepancies between adolescent expectations and realities would
suggest that, as educators and counselors, we need to continue to prepare
students and clients for a rapidly changing society and to aid them in
developing their values, skills, interests, and life choices apart from sex role
SEX-EQUITY AND COUNSELOR ATTITUDES
In working with clients
and students to prepare for and to make choices about life roles, it is
essential for counselors and educators to be aware of their own biases and
stereotypes and how these attitudes may influence their work. Broverman,
Broverman, Clarkson, Rosenkrantz, & Vogel (1970) investigated the extent to
which counselors and other mental health workers held stereotypic sex-role
attitudes. The results of this, now classic, study reflect stereotypic views of
men and women and equate the characteristics of a mentally healthy adult with
those of a healthy male, implying very different standards of mental health for
women and men. Following this study, there has been a burgeoning of studies on
sex bias in counseling and education, with some researchers implying the furor
was "much ado about nothing," and other researchers and practitioners pointing
to countless examples of bias in counseling and therapy. Enough were convinced
that during the 70's and early 80's, schools and colleges played major roles in
addressing these issues (Sadker & Sadker, 1982; Klein, 1985).
The attention given to counselors' sex-role attitudes in the past two decades
raises questions about what impact this has had on present counselor attitudes.
Using methodology similar to Broverman et al. (1970), O'Malley and Richardson
(1985) found, in contrast, that the subjects perceived healthy adults as
possessing characteristics stereotypically associated with both men and women.
However, similar to Broverman et al., counselors continued to respond in a
stereotypic manner when asked to predict characteristics of an adult man or
woman. In spite of mixed results, it appears that some counselors and educators
continue to have stereotypic expectations of female and male clients and
NEW FACE OF SEX EQUITY ISSUES
The combination of societal
changes and continuing, though more limited, interventions has made it necessary
for counselors and educators to begin to rethink the current status of sex
equity and their role in it. The new face of sex equity issues includes the
-- Recognition that sex role and stereotyping issues affect men as well as
-- Emergence of diverse family types, including two-earner families, single
parents, and blended families.
-- Growing recognition of the linkage between work and family and
implications for life career planning and division of labor.
-- Movement toward holistic life planning which emphasizes balance in life
roles and a more integrated approach to life planning.
-- Recognition of the need to challenge continuing examples of attitudes and
behaviors which devalue girls and women.
COUNSELORS/EDUCATORS AS CHANGE AGENTS
This brief review
indicates that while much has been done to promote sex equity, much remains to
be done. Counselors and educators committed to the development of human beings
and the utilization of human potential, as well as to democratic values, can, if
they are willing, assume a much more proactive role in effecting positive
change. The following recommendations suggest ways in which counselors and
educators can be change agents for sex equity:
-- Examine their own attitudes and practices to assure that they have
eliminated the subtle as well as blatant attitudes and stereotypes regarding
-- Assure that new knowledge about the changing roles of women and men,
work/family intersection, stereotyping and socialization, and gender equity are
a visible part of curriculum and programs.
-- Advocate for public policy changes that bring policies more into
consonance with the changing realities of women and men in work and family.
-- Influence career guidance programs to include more about life roles,
purpose and meaning in life choices, and integrative life planning--not just
occupational choice and the paid work role.
-- Teach students, teachers, and prospective teachers that they can be
positive agents for change in developing more egalitarian relationships between
women and men.
Broverman, I. K., Broverman, D. M.,
Clarkson, F. E., Rosenkrantz, P. S, & Vogel, S. (1970). Sex role stereotypes
and clinical judgments of mental health. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 38, 1-7.
Gallup, G. (1988, January). Career development: Achievements and challenges.
Speech at National Career Development Association Conference, Orlando, Florida.
Hansen, L. S. (1984). Eliminating sex stereotyping in schools: A regional
guide for educators in North America and Western Europe. Paris: United Nations
Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
Hansen, L. S. (1981). BORN FREE: Career development, sex roles, and social
change. IAEVG Bulletin, Proceedings of 10th World Congress, September, 1980,
Hedin, D., Erickson, J., Simon, P. I., & Walker, J. (1985). Minnesota
youth poll: Aspirations, future plans and expectations of Minnesota youth. St.
Paul: Center for Youth Development and Research, University of Minnesota.
Herzog, A. R., & Bachman, J. G. (1982). Sex role attitudes among high
school seniors: Views about work and family roles (Executive summary). Ann
Arbor: The University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research.
Klein, S. (1985). Handbook for achieving sex equity through education.
Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
McCune, S. D., & Matthews, M. (1978). Implementing Title IX and attaining
sex equity: A workshop package for elementary-secondary and post-secondary
educators. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers, DHEW/OE.
National Advisory Council for Women's Educational Programs (NACWEP). (1988).
Options and decisions in women's educational equity. Washington, DC: National
Advisory Council on Women's Educational Programs.
O'Malley, K. M., & Richardson, S. (1985). Sex bias in counseling: Have
things changed? Journal of Counseling and Development, 63, 294-298.
Sadker, M. P., & Sadker, D. M. (1982). Sex equity handbook for schools.
New York: Longman, Inc.