Gender Issues in Supervision - April 1994 ERIC Digest...

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EDO-CD-94-13 April 1994 Introduction Gender as a concept encompasses “culturally-deter- mined cognitions, attitudes, and belief systems about females and males ; [it] varies across cultures, changes through historical time, and differs in terms of who makes the observations and judgments” (Worell & Remer, 1992, p. 9). Using this definition, discussion of the effects of gender on supervision must be built upon an examina- tion of the present status regarding gender within this culture. A Societal Framework Currently, there appear to be three basic perspectives concerning gender differences. These perspectives are focused in areas of unequal distribution of power, social- ization, and inherent differences. Combining informa- tion from these bodies of literature, we can construct an explanation of what it means to be male or female in our society. First, men as a group within American society have more economic, political, social, and physical power than most women. Males and females also, however, are socialized to become different beings as well. Messages received from family, school, and media continue to be heavily laden with sex-role messages representing very different sets of acceptable behaviors for boys and girls. These social rules and expectations create remarkably dis- parate psychological environments for development based on gender. Finally, in terms of inherent differences, those characteristics stereotypically identified with women historically have been dismissed as of little value. Even within psychology, the model of the healthy adult has traditionally been described through masculine char- acteristics. Only in rather recent history have we begun, at any level, to hear and value “the other voice” (Gilligan, 1982). This societal framework indicates the existence of a power differential and suggests the potential for bias in expectations and/or actions. With gender as such a sig- nificant social variable, it is unlikely that the effects also would not be apparent in counseling and supervision. These parallel processes must continually be examined within the larger context of society. Two remaining factors are worth mentioning. Mini- mizing the importance of the differences between the genders discounts the importance of meaningful within- group experience while exaggerating this importance reduces the potential for individual difference. Addition- ally, it is important to remember that while much that we have come to understand about gender differences has been motivated by the women’s movement, the poten-
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