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Pursuing Medicina [Medicine]: Latina Physicians and Parental Messages on Gendered Career Choices

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Prior research underscores that college-educated Latinas are hyper-segregated into highly feminized occupations and that Latino parents socialize their daughters to seek out these careers. Despite this trend, a small and growing number of Latinas are steadily entering prestigious non-traditional careers in medicine. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 20 Latina physicians of various generational backgrounds in California, I examine how Latina doctors explain the role parental messages played in their occupational trajectories. I document the fluid and often contradicting gendered expectations Latina physicians received from parents and identify three primary patterns in these messages, including: (a) fathers’ contradictory gendered expectations for their wives versus their U.S. born/raised daughters, (b) fathers and mothers’ differing messages about procuring financial and social independence from men, and (c) parental messages about sexuality. The messages that young Latinas receive vary and reflect tensions between gendered expectations for women in the immigrant parents’ home country and those available in the United States. The messages of support and resistance that Latina physicians receive from their parents regarding the pursuit of a career in medicine show how changing structural contexts—such as access and entry into prestigious non-traditional fields—rearranges gendered dynamics within Latino families.

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The Hellman Fellows Program and the UC/ACCORD organization supported the present research. I wish to thank the physicians who participated in the study and the study’s undergraduate research assistants: Thalia Fabian and Yoselinda Mendoza. I am also grateful to Raul Fernández, Belinda Campos, and the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments on prior drafts.

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Correspondence to Glenda M. Flores.

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This study was approved by the author’s Institutional Review Board. Informed consent was given by all participants.

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Flores, G.M. Pursuing Medicina [Medicine]: Latina Physicians and Parental Messages on Gendered Career Choices. Sex Roles 81, 59–73 (2019).

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