A study of women's life dreams: The self-reported influence of gender role and gender bias on women's goals, aspirations, and visions

Charlotte R. McGray (1996)

This qualitative study examines the reported influence of gender roles and gender bias on eleven mid-life women's life dreams. Life dreams are defined as goals, aspirations, and visions of possible-selves which function as schema that organize the skills, concepts, and intentions of the self. Social construction (K. J. Gergan, 1991), gender construction (Beall, 1993), adult development (Levinson, 1978; Josselson, 1987) and other cognitive theories (Mahoney, 1991; Bandura, 1989; Bem, 1993) are integrated with self-in-relation theory (Jordan, Kaplan, Miller, Stiver, & Surrey, 1991) and additional research on women to theoretically demonstrate the importance of women's life dreams as well as the impact of gender role and bias on the possible-self and goal pursuit. Most of the women reported that they internalized responsibility for perceived inadequacies, deficits, and incompatibilities with gender role and bias expectations. Omissions and limitations of opportunity, choice, and skill development were felt to act as confining boundaries to self-development and were experienced as an unwelcome-self. Life dreams (goals, aspirations, and visions of future self) were reported to function across four domains to provide direction, develop self, and provide hope. Lack of dreams was associated with delayed career goals, lost time, or diminished life quality.