Work preferences, life values, and personal views of top math/science graduate students and the profoundly gifted: Developmental changes and gender differences during emerging adulthood and parenthood

Kimberley Ferriman, David Lubinski, Camilla P. Benbow
2009 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology  
Work preferences, life values, and personal views of top math/science graduate students (275 men, 255 women) were assessed at ages 25 and 35 years. In Study 1, analyses of work preferences revealed developmental changes and gender differences in priorities: Some gender differences increased over time and increased more among parents than among childless participants, seemingly because the mothers' priorities changed. In Study 2, gender differences in the graduate students' life values and
more » ... al views at age 35 were compared with those of profoundly gifted participants (top 1 in 10,000, identified by age 13 and tracked for 20 years: 265 men, 84 women). Again, gender differences were larger among parents. Across both cohorts, men appeared to assume a more agentic, career-focused perspective than women did, placing more importance on creating high-impact products, receiving compensation, taking risks, and gaining recognition as the best in their fields. Women appeared to favor a more communal, holistic perspective, emphasizing community, family, friendships, and less time devoted to career. Gender differences in life priorities, which intensify during parenthood, anticipated differential male-female representation in high-level and timeintensive careers, even among talented men and women with similar profiles of abilities, vocational interests, and educational experiences. Although gender differences are apparent in several personality attributes relevant to career development (Brownemost of the recent scholarly and public debate on women's underrepresentation in high-intensity science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers has focused on the contribution made by gender differences in the abilities requisite for outstanding achievement in STEM (Ceci & Williams, 2007; Halpern et al., 2007) . Perhaps this is because that topic (gender differences in abilities) is so controversial and emotionally charged. However, gender differences in lifestyle preferences and orientation toward life may be more important to women's underrepresentation in high-intensity STEM careers than one might conclude from the relatively small amount of attention devoted to them in the literature. Lifestyle preferences and orientation toward life refer to priorities and sources of life satisfaction including and beyond career fulfillment, such as work-family balance, community involvement, and relationships with others. The research described here investigates gender differences in lifestyle preferences among men and women who have the ability, passion, and training to excel in high-intensity STEM careers. Our approach not only in essence holds ability constant but also narrows the population down to the one most relevant for study: those who are supremely qualified to work in high-intensity STEM careers. During the process of choosing a career, people gauge the compatibility of their lifestyle preferences with the lifestyle requirements of potential careers. However, lifestyle requirements are only one of many aspects that people consider in this process. According to Gottfredson's (1981 Gottfredson's ( , 2005 theory of circumscription and compromise, people also consider the career's gender type (whether it is typically held by men or women), its prestige level,
doi:10.1037/a0016030 pmid:19686005 fatcat:hvv2f5j3pfgu5k2cg4qxvc2b2i