Sex Roles

, 65:83 | Cite as

Do Young Women Expect Gender Equality in Their Future Lives? An Answer From a Possible Selves Experiment

  • Janell C. Fetterolf
  • Alice H. Eagly
Original Article


This study examined young women’s expectations about gender equality in their future careers and marriages. The study implemented a possible selves method in which 114 undergraduate women from a Midwestern university in the United States were randomly assigned to envision themselves as married mothers employed either full-time, part-time, or not at all and possessing either an advanced degree or a bachelor’s degree. Participants indicated their expectations for gender equality by estimating their own and their future husbands’ expected salaries and hours per week of housework and employment. They also evaluated their possible selves and estimated their emotional well-being and likely attainment of several important life goals. Greater employment produced greater expected gender equality, although in all conditions participants expected to have lesser salary and more domestic work than their husbands. With employment, compared with no employment, and with an advanced degree, compared with a bachelor’s degree, participants rated their possible selves more positively and estimated that they would have greater emotional well-being and attainment of life goals related to respect and finances. However, employment negatively affected participants’ anticipated relationships with their children. Thus, our participants’ reactions displayed a tradeoff between satisfying their employment goals and their goals for their relationship with their children.


Gender equality Possible selves Domestic equality Undergraduate women 



This research was supported in part by a grant from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyRutgers UniversityPiscatawayUSA

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