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Becoming a female engineer: Sex role self concept and sex role attitudes in occupational choice and socialisation

Newton, Peggy D. (1986) Becoming a female engineer: Sex role self concept and sex role attitudes in occupational choice and socialisation. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94553) (KAR id:94553)


Previous research on women entering technology has focussed on eminent women in science, suggesting that they are distinguished by masculine characteristics and close relationships with their fathers. More recent research on women entering non traditional occupations has suggested the importance of the mother as a role model in career choice and socialisation. The present research explored sex role self concept and sex role attitudes in a longitudinal study of two groups of young women being trained as technicians in engineering. Female engineers were compared with four groups: male engineers, female friends from school, women in business studies and women in nursery nursing. Regional comparisons were also made between subjects in London and in Birmingham. Measures used in the research were the Bern Sex Role Inventory and the MAFERR Inventory of Feminine Values. When they began training female engineers did not differ significantly from either their female friends or male engineers in their levels of perceived femininity or masculinity. However, female engineers (regions combined) were significantly more likely to be classified as androgynous than subjects in any other group and were significantly less likely to be classified to be classified as feminine sex typed than other female subjects. After two years' training, female engineers showed significant increases in femininity, and the differences between female and male engineers increased. Female engineers did not differ from their female friends or women in nursery nursing in their sex role attitudes and ideals; however, women in business studies had significantly more traditional attitudes than other female groups. As in previous research using the MAFERR, female engineers believed that men had a significantly more traditional view of an ideal woman than an ideal woman actually described by male engineers. Over time female engineers and women in business studies became significantly more profeminist in their sex role attitudes. Contrary to prediction, female engineers showed less dramatic changes in sex role self concept and sex role attitudes than women in business studies. Results of the experimental studies are discussed in terms of Bern's (1985) gender schema theory and several theories of attitude change. Practical implications of the research are explored, and suggestions are offered for how to recruit more female engineers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94553
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Psychology, women in science, sex roles
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2023 08:42 UTC
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2023 08:43 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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