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RESEARCH: How does gender influence the choice of an academic career path in psychology vs. philosophy?

March 16, 2023

Classical busts of two women talking to each other. The left-side woman is rose-coloured, the right-side woman is blue. Women talking: Kristen Dunfield and Katharina Nieswandt explore gender divides in the fields of psychology and philosophy.

Concordia researchers examined how gender and feelings of belonging may play a role in career choices. Although psychology and philosophy used to be a single field, they have long been split, and the study examined how gendered self-perceptions and goals may play a role in how academic paths are chosen.

Associate professors Kristen Dunfield (Psychology) and Katharina Nieswandt (Philosophy) led an interdisciplinary team including then-postdoc Heather Maranges (Psychology and Philosophy; lead author), doctoral candidate Maxine Iannuccilli (Psychology), and associate professor Ulf Hlobil (Philosophy) in studying disproportional gender representation in their respective fields.

At North American universities, women are roughly 70 per cent of psychology graduates and 57 per cent of faculty. In philosophy, women are less than 40 per cent of philosophy students, and 2 per cent of faculty.

Looking at how feelings of belonging drive career choices, the team investigated how students’ perceptions of their own character traits such as intellectual combativeness and systematizing (stereotypical masculine traits) and empathizing (a stereotypical feminine trait) fed into life goals, such as prioritization of money, family, and status, and, in turn into feelings of belonging in psychology and philosophy. Such feelings of belonging then influence the choice of academic paths.

Their findings showed that men view themselves as higher in intellectual combativeness and systematizing than women, while women viewed themselves as more empathizing. Women prioritized making money from and having a family during their careers more than did men, whereas men who were particularly combative prioritized status. The most significant drivers of feelings of belonging by gender were combativeness (for philosophy) and prioritization of money (for psychology).

Their work reveals a complex picture about how self-perceptions and life goals shape feelings of belonging to influence men and women from the outset of their academic careers, leading some students in one direction versus another along stereotypical gender lines.

Read  What determines feelings of belonging and majoring in an academic field? Isolating factors by comparing psychology and philosophy in Current Research in Behavioral Sciences

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