Gifted adolescent girls in selective secondary school programs: influences on career development

Author: Rebecca Napier

Napier, Rebecca, 2020 Gifted adolescent girls in selective secondary school programs: influences on career development, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


Despite superior school achievement outcomes and high career aspirations of adolescent girls, there remains a documented lack of eminent females in most career fields (Rudasill & Callahan, 2010). The focus of this research is on understanding the potential roots of gender discrepancies in career outcomes. It examines the early career planning stages of academically gifted girls attending selective secondary school programs—a group who may be most likely to hold high career aspirations and achieve future career-related eminence. Most of what we know about career development in gifted girls comes from retrospective accounts from eminent women, or from international research. There is little Australian research specifically focused on early career development for gifted adolescent girls.

This research employed a qualitative, cross-sectional design in which 18 gifted girls at three different grade levels (8, 10, and 12) across three sites were each engaged in two, semi-structured interviews about the factors influencing their career-related values, decision-making processes, and goals. Factors that enabled, inhibited, or created tensions in their career planning were explored. Interview questions and data analysis were informed by a blended theoretical framework drawing on Gottfredson’s (2002a) theory of circumscription, compromise, and self-creation and Savickas’ (2002) theory of career construction.

Participants identified a combination of important career-related experiences, relationships, and personal traits that served to both broaden and narrow their career decisions and goals. Key internal influences on career development included participants’ developing sense of their own identities, deepening awareness of their own strengths and interests, and a commitment to make a difference in others’ lives. In terms of external influences, participants highlighted the career-related impact of family support, mentoring relationships, school programs and personnel, community-based opportunities, and perceptions of a changing career landscape. The relationships between these internal and contextual influences are represented in an original explanatory model. Findings of this research particularly have implications for designing career-related supports for gifted adolescent girls. Nine principles for their career support are given.

Keywords: gifted, adolescents, career development, girls, females, education, Australia, secondary, selective, programs, factors, influences, career-related, values, decision-making processes, goals

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2020
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr. Jane Jarvis