Traditional Female Roles, Openness, and Confidence in Working Women

Women have many roles. They are sisters, friends, daughters, mothers, and wives. And most women are employed in some capacity, with or without pay. Whether they work at home—raising children and running the house—or they enter the workforce as an employee, most women work. For young women, the transition from student to worker can be challenging. Equally difficult can be the reentry into the workforce for women who return to a job after having stayed home to raise children. How a woman approaches these transitions can affect not only her success in this pursuit, but also her self-esteem and well-being.

David Weiss of the Department of Psychology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland looked at two specific factors in women’s work-related aspirations. First, he looked at how openness influenced the experience. Second, he gauged how women’s gender ideology affected outcome. Weiss conducted a study that followed 61 young women as they left high school and began careers. He then looked at more than 800 women’s transitions from school or parenthood to work. Weiss found that the women who were lower in openness embraced traditional female gender roles, while those with more openness embraced nontraditional gender roles.

Those women who were more open demonstrated high levels of self-efficacy and well-being. Women who were less open fared poorly when they tried to step out into nontraditional female roles. “Taken together, the present research suggests that endorsing an ideology that provides strong behavioral guidelines can help women low in openness to master the challenges of a developmental transition,” Weiss said. He added that for women who approach career choices with an open mind, working within the confines of traditional gender expectations can have negative effects on self-esteem, well-being, and overall work-related success.

Weiss, David, Alexandra M. Freund, and Bettina S. Wiese. Mastering developmental transitions in young and middle adulthood: The interplay of openness to experience and traditional gender ideology on women’s self-efficacy and subjective well-being. Developmental Psychology 48.6 (2012): 1774-784. Print.

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  • valerie

    November 27th, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Wow I thought that we were done having to even have this conversation years and years agao.
    Why should there still be this kind of conflict and struggle within the female psyche over working outside the home and taking on some of the roles that have traditionally been held by men? I have been working for years outside of the home, and you can’t honestly tell me that my children have not benefitted from it. I have the financial ability to make sure that they can do more and be more and much of this comes form the added income that I bring to the home. I have a supportive family at home and at work and couldn’t have ever asked for a better situation. I think that if you ask a lot of women and they give you honest answers then I think that you will find a lot of them who feel exactly the same way.

  • Nan

    November 28th, 2012 at 3:45 AM

    I knew from the time I was in college that I would want to continue to work even after I had children.

    It was a real battle for me to find someone in husband material who supported that at that time, but we made it work.

    It was atrade off though. There were things that I missed as a result of wanting to have it all, and I am not sure any,more if there is any real way to actually achieve that dream.

    Maybe young women today have a better grasp on how to juggle all of the responsibilities that this brings them. Sometimes I am not sure that I was able to do all of it so well.

  • j marsh

    November 28th, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    some women may be better at taking on nontraditional roles than others but the others can easily be integrated too.all they need is to focus a little and put in effort.the same holds true for anyone but those that are not great at any particular role will need to work a little extra.nothing is beyond a person if she wants it enough.

  • jenna

    November 28th, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    if you believe you can then you can,period.the opposite holds good too.also when it comes to women issues,I think we put ourselves under stress,under stress that we create by thinking up things that nobody else is actually saying or doing but purely from our imagination.if we can break free from this,I don’t see why women can not only equal men at the workplace but also go beyond them.

  • Baylee

    November 29th, 2012 at 1:01 AM

    Everybody cannot be on the same level at work.Even some men are more easily adapted to work than others.Does that mean those men are not suited for work? No. It only means everybody has their own levels of comfort to work and the same can be worked upon. Heaping this all on some women as being not as great at work is completely wrong IMHO.

  • finley

    November 29th, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    if you are a woman and see women as being homemakers and not capable of working outside then there is no reason you should seek work at all.getting things right with yourself is the first step.only then can you face and the world and compete.if you think so lowly of women yourself,then there is nothing that anybody else can help you with!women can be great workers and just like with anybody (irrespective of gender) all that is needed is a fire within and the determination to get ahead!

  • Audrey

    November 30th, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    Different women have different aspirations and mindsets.It is best to do what you personally want to do.If traditional roles is what you prefer,go ahead with it.If a professional life is what you desire then go for that.It is always better to choose what you really want to,there is more satisfaction and less of stress in such a decision.

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