Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Douglas L. Epperson


This study investigated a model of predictors of career aspirations among two groups of women: students in mathematics, physical science, and engineering majors and students in biological science majors. Based on theories of women's career development and social-cognitive theories, it was hypothesized that ability, self-efficacy, positivity of role model influence, and role conflict would influence the career aspirations of these women. It was further hypothesized that the students' year in school would contribute to this model as a predictor variable. Five hundred forty-six students (representing a 71% response rate) from Iowa State University were surveyed by mail to evaluate the fit of this model;The structural equation modeling procedure revealed that the career aspirations of the two groups of women were directly predicted by self-efficacy and role conflict and indirectly predicted by year in school, academic ability, and positivity of role model influence. The model for this combined group of students represented a good overall fit, explaining 94% of the covariation among the measured variables. When the two groups of students were compared, identical models for women in the two groups revealed different relationships among the variables. In contrast to the women in math, physical science, and engineering majors, the relationships between ability and self-efficacy and between positivity of role model influence and self-efficacy were significantly lower in magnitude for women in the biological sciences group;In addition to providing a parsimonious model for conceptualizing the experiences of women in traditionally male fields, this study's findings have implications for increasing the number of women who aspire to advanced careers in these occupations. Primarily, this study suggests that interventions designed to increase the degree to which students are influenced positively by role models may increase their self-efficacy expectations and may decrease the amount of conflict they perceive between the roles of worker and spouse or parent. In turn, increasing self-efficacy and decreasing role conflict may increase the degree to which students aspire to leadership and top-level careers within mathematics, the physical sciences, and engineering.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Margaret Mary Nauta



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

132 pages