A study of Mexican American women's perceptions of factors that influence academic and professional goal attainment

Date

1983

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Abstract

The research problem in this study was to identify the perceptions of Chicanas about factors that influenced goal attainment. These Chicanas had completed doctorates and were employed in Texas institutions of higher education. Research indicated a paucity of such women. This study therefore sought first to describe the population, then sought to elicit from respondents their own perceptions of the factors that positively or negatively influenced the attainment of their goals. The goals of the study were three: 1. Describe the population by soliciting demographic information 2. Determine which, among twenty factors, had a positive, negative or no influence on goal attainment. 3. Elicit respondents" perspectives on themselves and the forces that influenced them. A demographic profile was used to establish vital statistics and general background information including home town setting, parental educational attainment, and economic status in childhood, family size, and sibling order. Other information requested involved degree completion, current professional role and responsibility, and finally, professional aspirations. The profile of the nineteen respondents revealed personal information. Average age at the time of the study was 35 years. Sixteen of the respondents, 84[percent], completed their degrees since 1973 at a median age of 33.76. Of the 36 parents of the sample 61[percent] did not attend high school. In spite of the fact that Chicanos attain higher levels of education than Chicanas, 52[percent] of respondents mothers, compared to 24[percent] of fathers completed at least one year of high school. Almost 74[percent] of respondents reported low or lower middle economic family status in childhood. Respondents were from families with an average of four children. Their own families were considerably smaller. The average was 2.1 children. Twelve of the women, 63[percent], reported they were married. Twenty-one percent of respondents worked In Texas community colleges, 73.6[percent] were at universities, and 5[percent] were at a professional school. Most of the women were assistant professor rank, 57.8[percent], but 21[percent] held associate professorships and 15.7[percent] were non-professors. Further examination of data revealed that 89.5[percent] of respondents were in positions supported with state as opposed to federal dollars. Eleven respondents, 57[percent], reported themselves as administrators. 91[percent] of the administrators had reduced teaching responsibility, and 85[percent] claimed budgetary and staffing responsibility. One quarter of assistant professors/nonadministrators aspired to administration and 75[percent] aspired to tenure. Of the five associate professors/administrators, 40[percent] aspired to higher administration, and 6[percent] to research. Twenty variables that might affect goal attainment were culled from the literature. A Goal Attainment Factors Ranking Form was used to narrow the range of factors to be discussed in the personal interview. Respondents were asked to identify the positive, neutral or non-effect of twenty factors. This procedure reduced the factors to be discussed to ten that were identified as positive and three which were defined as negative. The positive factors were home town setting, socio-economic status of parents, Spanish speaking ability, religious training, mother"s role, father"s role, and spouse, faculty, employer, and familial support. The three negative factors were sex stereotyping, sex typing of professions, and cultural value of women"s role. Personal indepth interviews were then arranged with seven respondents. The flexible interview enabled the researcher to develop an understanding of respondents" own perceptions. The data gathered described a population and that population"s perceptions of variables affecting goal attainment. One respondent lived in a large city during her childhood and four lived in medium sized cities In Texas. The remaining respondents were from small town or rural areas. Of the seven women interviewed six were from small towns or rural areas. The six perceived living where they did to be an advantage during childhood. All seven women described their families as poor, and their parents as having had little formal education. These women did emphasize that low parental educational attainment was not a negative influence on their own achievement. Religion was perceived by some in the subsample as something of a nuisance at times, but generally was described as comforting. All of the interviewees also were able to read, write and speak Spanish. They stated that their intent was to maintain their fluency in both languages. Subsample respondents described themselves as able students in both early and later educational stages. They also commented on their strong motivation to achieve. The positive influence of parents and family was stressed by all seven women interviewed. Each of them also emphasized sometime negative influences from spouses, teachers, faculty, and colleagues. The Chicana interviewees expressed a high degree of commitment to a professional role and high-achieving female role. Respondents related attempts by others to restrict their role definition, during childhood. In school, and in their professional lives. Although discrimination-related questions were not presented during the interview, the Chicanas interviewed used "we, they" terminology. In addition, when responding to questions concerning her experiences, each of them recounted at least one incident when she perceived that access was limited either because she was a woman or because she was a Chicana. This research was guided by theories of status attainment, socialization of minorities and social behavior in organizations. The purpose of the study was to identify the perceptions of Chicanas regarding factors that affect goal attainment. From the data, hypotheses were formulated to provide possible explanation to why some Mexican American women achieve academically and professionally. Summarizing the hypotheses, there are several factors affecting the perceptions and behaviors of Chicana high achievers. Among these are: Influence of significant others, differences in the socialization of women and men, mental ability, motivation, organizational expectations, and ethnicity.

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Keywords

Mexican American women--Education, Mexican American women--Employment, Goal (Psychology)

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