Family Influence, Critical Consciousness, and Career Calling in Women of Color.

Author:Marks, Laura Reid

Research on calling has examined the presence of and search for career calling. This cross-sectional study investigated the relationship between family influence and career calling (presence and search) in a sample of 400 women of color (mean age = 31.2 years) in the United States. The authors also examined whether this relationship was partially or fully explained by critical consciousness. Participants were recruited using Amazon Mechanical Turk, where they completed an online questionnaire. Structural equation modeling was used to test 2 models, with calling presence and calling search as disparate outcomes. Analyses revealed that most of the significant pathways in the model involved family influence, critical consciousness, and calling search. In addition, findings suggested that critical consciousness did not explain the relationship between family influence and career calling (presence or search); however, given the significant pathways, it may still be an important consideration for counselors when working with women of color on their career development.

Keywords-, calling, critical consciousness, family influence, women of color, career development


Women, especially women of color, seek careers that they find meaningful and from which they can derive purpose (Burlew, 1977). A career calling can lead to goal-directed tasks that enable women to achieve their career aspirations (Praskova, Creed, & Hood, 2015), and career calling can increase die likelihood of career commitment and success (Duffy, Allan, & Dik, 2011). Hence, calling is an important component of career development (e.g., Dik & Duffy, 2009; Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997).

Family may be an integral source of searching for and developing career calling because family members convey intended and unintended messages about what constitutes a meaningful career (Pearson & Bieschke, 2001). Moreover, critical consciousness represents a potential intervening factor in the relationship between family influence and calling presence and search. Critical consciousness denotes an understanding of the social inequalities that exist in society and the steps needed to address these inequities. In the current study, we sought to add to the literature by examining family influence and critical consciousness in relation to career calling (presence and search) in women of color.

Career Calling and Family Influence

Since 1997, multiple studies have established the importance of calling to career and have defined calling in a variety of ways (e.g., Dik & Duffy, 2009; Wrzesniewski et al., 1997). All of the definitions appear to converge on career calling as being related to feelings of purpose and altruism in work (Allan, Tebbe, Duffy, & Autin, 2015). Dik and Duffy (2009) articulated three foundational components of career calling. One component is the idea of an external summons, a caller, which may take a variety of forms, such as a higher power, societal needs, or a family tradition. A second component is a necessary alignment of a person's work approach with a sense of purpose and meaning. A third component involves using work to help others and to make the world a more just place.

Researchers have found positive associations between calling and numerous beneficial career-related outcomes. These outcomes include positive relationships with career and life satisfaction (Allan & Duffy, 2014; Bott, Duffy, & Douglass, 2015; Duffy, Allan, & Bott, 2012; Hagmaier & Abele, 2015; Praskova et al., 2015; Wrzesniewski et al., 1997); meaning in life (Bott & Duffy, 2015; Bott et al., 2015; Duffy et al., 2012; Steger, Pickering, Shin, & Dik, 2010); well-being and positive work attitudes (Steger et al., 2010); career outcome expectations (Domene, 2012; Kaminsky & Behrend, 2015); perceived employability, work effort, use of career strategies, and emotional regulation (Praskova et al., 2015); and career adaptability (Douglass & Duffy, 2015; Xie, Xia, Xin, & Zhou, 2016). Studies examining antecedents of calling have shown links with goal setting and self-regulation processes (Creed, Kjoelaas, & Hood, 2016); ability, behavioral involvement, and social comfort (Dobrow, 2013); and career thoughts and vocational identity (Galles & Lenz, 2013). These findings lend support to the importance of calling in multiple career-related domains.

Nevertheless, we could locate only one study that examined the relationship between family influence and calling, despite family having been identified as a potential caller. According to Fouad, Kim, Ghosh, Chang, and Figueiredo (2016), one's family may intentionally or inadvertently convey messages about which careers are meaningful and important. For example, parents may convey that medicine or engineering are desirable careers, thus influencing their children's calling to those careers. When examining correlates between dimensions of family influence and career decision-making in India and the United States, Fouad et al. (2016) found that all of the dimensions of family influence were positively correlated with multiple aspects of calling, such as search for and presence of prosocial orientation, purposeful work, and transcendent summons. Therefore, we anticipated that there would be a positive relationship between dimensions of family influence and career calling (presence and search).

Critical Consciousness

Critical consciousness refers to the process of developing an understanding of the world's inequities and taking steps to make changes to the social structures that perpetuate the marginalization and oppression of certain groups of people (Freire, 1973; Olle & Fouad, 2015; Watts, Diemer, & Voight, 2011). Critical consciousness involves critical reflection and action (Diemer, Rapa, Park, & Perry, 2017). Critical reflection is composed of two subcomponents: perceived inequality (i.e., an examination of social inequities, such as race- and gender-related inequality) and egalitarianism (i.e., an agreement on the importance of equality). Conversely, critical action entails sociopolitical participation (i.e., individual or group participation in activities seeking societal change). High levels of critical consciousness may be influential in changing the existing political structures that foster racism, classism, and other kinds of oppressive experiences.

Several studies have examined the link between family and critical consciousness. For example, Diemer and Hsieh (2008) demonstrated that when adolescents of color have discussions with their parents and caregivers about current events, these discussions tend to lead them to helping others in the community (i.e., sociopolitical participation), perhaps because they felt called to do so. Another study revealed the importance of a social context (e.g., family, peers, community members) in challenging oppression to facilitate critical consciousness in urban adolescents (Diemer & Blustein, 2006). However, a missing component in the extant research is a multidimensional analysis of the ways in which family influences critical consciousness in adult women of color.

Studies by Diemer and colleagues (Diemer & Blustein, 2006; Diemer & Hsieh, 2008) have demonstrated a connection between critical consciousness and positive career outcomes. In a study of urban youth, Diemer and Blustein (2006) found that higher levels of critical consciousness led to greater clarity in vocational identity and more commitment to future careers. They also theorized that women of color who have higher levels of critical consciousness would be better able to cope with experiences of oppression and overcome sociopolitical barriers. Furthermore, Diemer and Hsieh (2008) found that higher levels of critical consciousness led to increased vocational expectations (i.e., aspirations for high-prestige careers) in adolescents of color. These studies suggest that critical consciousness is an important career construct, especially for marginalized groups. In simple terms, reflecting on the societal inequities that exist and taking actions to address these inequities may lead to a calling or search for a calling to particular (and probably service-oriented) careers.

Purpose of the Study

We sought to extend the extant career calling literature by examining the predictive influence of family influence on calling (presence and search) in women of color. We also examined critical consciousness as a possible mediator of the...

To continue reading