The Canadian Psychological Review / Canadian Psychology
from 1976 to 1980

Mark Medweth, Nicol Kapalka, & Sylvana Herrera
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University

It has been well recognized that the late 1970s were a period of increased concern for equality. In particular, the number of women entering the economic workforce was on the rise. Such was the case for the psychological workplace as well. In 1975, women accounted for 39 percent of the MA's awarded in Canada (Pyke, & Stark-Adamec, 1981). By 1978, this number had increased to 47 percent. Likewise, the number of doctoral degrees awarded to women in psychology rose from 25 to 37 percent in the same time period (Pyke, & Stark-Adamec, 1981). In a similar vein, curricular offerings also showed improvement in terms of equality. In 1974, just 15 percent of Canadian psychology departments surveyed included course work related to the psychology of women. By 1978, the number had reached 48 percent (Pyke, & Stark-Adamec, 1981). It is clear that the period between 1976 and 1980 was one of increased interest and participation in psychology on the part of women. A survey of the literature, for this time period, of the CANADIAN PSYCHOLOGICAL REVIEW and CANADIAN PSYCHOLOGY was undertaken in order to examine the increased concerns women had about psychology and their role in psychology as a profession.

While it seems that 1976-1980 saw some increase in concern for women's issues in the CANADIAN PSYCHOLOGICAL REVIEW and CANADIAN PSYCHOLOGY, this shift was not apparent in many of the semiannual publications. In 1976, little evidence of women having any involvement in the journal publications, both as authors and subject matter, is evident. Psychologists focused on such topics as alcohol and drug abuse as well as the application of psychology in education.

However, the January 1977 edition was dedicated solely to the topic of women's issues, featuring a report on the status of women in Canadian psychology by a special Task Force, as well as articles that supported their recommendations. The establishment of the Task Force, in 1975, was facilitated by it being the United Nations' International Women's Year. The Task Force had to work within the limited time span of one year and, therefore, the members set out to review available information, rather than carry out their own research.

After analyzing literature in areas that concerned women in psychology, the Task Force made many recommendations for action by the Canadian Psychological Association, and individual psychologists, in order to make the changes necessary for eliminating all types of sex bias in Canadian psychology.

Recommendations for improvement in how women are treated and perceived were made in the following areas: women's status within the discipline, the education and training of women in psychology, psychological research, and psychological services for women.

The articles that were selected to support the Task Force's recommendations included those which revealed that women have lower status on most dimensions of employment within the discipline of psychology (Pyke, 1977), that there is a high attrition rate of female graduate students (Burwell, 1977), there is a male biased language in many psychology textbooks (Gray, 1977), and there is often sex bias in psychological research (Favreau, 1977) and treatment (Carver, 1977; Luce, & Wand, 1977). All of these articles made it apparent that there was unequal treatment of the sexes in the discipline of psychology.

Resulting from the Task Force's report, the Board of Directors and the Association assumed responsibility to effect the changes recommended in those areas that were under its influence, and to make their position known to others within the discipline.

As the decade came to a close, many held continued concerns regarding differential power. The article entitled "Sexism and sex roles in letters of recommendation to graduate training in psychology" (Henderson, Briere, and Hartsough, 1980) found in CANADIAN PSYCHOLOGY examined how gender might unfairly influence a student's attempts to attend graduate school. It was hypothesized that the content of male-applicant letters of recommendation would favour such references as cognitive ability or cognitive style with an evaluation of academic goal orientation. Conversely, it was believed that female-applicant letters would lean toward an emphasis concerning interpersonal and emotional attributes as well as attractiveness and sexual availability. No such finding was supported (Henderson, Briere, and Hartsough, 1980). There were, however, significant differences according to the gender of those who wrote the letters: females referred to emotional traits more so than male writers. As well, it was noted that males outnumbered females in both applicant and letter writer groups. By virtue of their results, Henderson, Briere, and Hartsough (1980) stated that, with the correct assumption that women are as capable as men in pursuit of graduate training. Their conclusion seems clear that though women are likely to be evaluated on the same criteria as males in letters of recommendation, social constraints may act to deter females from participation in the discipline of psychology. One such constraint was suggested in a study that was published the same year.

The article entitled "Some factors affecting women's participation in psychology in Canada" (Williams, Zabrack, & Harrison, 1980) outlined one such constraint in the pursuit of a professional career in psychology for women. Data from CPA members indicated that female professionals who were married were at a disadvantage in comparison with their male counterparts. The majority of women who are married find themselves in a two-career family and most often find that their partner's career takes precedence. Despite this fact, the myth that suggests women are less productive (because they carry extra social burdens) was not a view supported by the authors. It was found that childrearing was not related to the number of publications of full-time academics (Hamovitch, & Morgenstern, 1977, as cited in Williams, Zabrack, & Harrison, 1980). Nor was childrearing related to the probability of a female being considered outstanding by her peers (Hamovitch, & Morgenstern, 1977, as cited in Williams, Zabrack, & Harrison, 1980). So what is sacrificed when married women are employed full time? Several studies have found that the woman's leisure time (including sleeping and eating), rather than their work, suffers (Meissner et al. 1975, as cited in Williams, Zabrack, & Harrison, 1980; Weaver, 1979, as cited in Williams, Zabrack, & Harrison, 1980).

Another interesting article which pertains to the issue in question is titled "The status of women and men in Canadian psychology academia" (Ricks, Pyke, Ames, Parry, & Duncan, 1980). This study, which closes out the decade, reports that the status of women faculty members has not improved over the period from 1976 to 1980 within Canadian psychology departments. There was no percentage increase over the period in question for either women faculty members or women at the full professor rank (Ricks et al., 1980). Interestingly, in a study conducted by Goldstein (1979, as cited in Ricks et al., 1980), it was found that significantly greater research productivity occurred when a student and their dissertation advisor (or role model) were the same sex. Yet whereas 48 percent of psychology graduate students are women in Canada, only 17 percent of psychology faculty members were female, suggesting the need to increase female faculty representation (Ricks et al., 1980).

There are myriad possible explanations for women's low representation within the discipline of psychology. Ricks et al. (1980) suggested that differences in the age distributions of men and women faculty members or sex-based discriminatory practices may play a role. Some also suggested that the tightening job market (Astin, 1972, as cited in Ricks et al., 1980) accompanied by shrinking budgets might promote a University position of attrition without replacement. Finally, the opportunity for replacement positions may be restricted by the fact that the majority of faculty members are tenured (Ricks et al., 1980).

Up until this point in history, relatively few studies were done which compared men and women in the psychological profession (Pyke, & Stark-Adamec, 1981). A strong percentage increase in female participation within the discipline of psychology in the late 1970's placed greater urgency on the need for further study and examination of the differential power that obviously existed. It seems clear that such needs were being addressed as the 1970's came to a close. As Canadian psychology moved into a new decade, Ricks et al. (1980) suggested that possible indicators of progress to be aware of and strive for include higher incidence of women faculty members in academia, a greater number of women faculty members with associate and full professor rank, a higher incidence of women with tenure, and an increase in women participating in, and graduating from, Doctorate programs.


Burwell, E. J. (1977). Issues in the education and training of women in Canadian psychology. Canadian Psychological Review, 18(1) 34-45.

Carver, V. (1977). The female alcoholic in treatment. Canadian Psychological Review, 18(1) 96-103.

Favreau, O. E. (1977). Sex bias in psychological research. Canadian Psychological Review, 18(1) 56-65.

Gray, V. A. (1977). The image of women in psychology textbooks. Canadian Psychological Review, 18(1) 46-55.

Henderson, J., Briere, J., and Hartsough, R. (1980). Sexism and sex roles in letters of recommendation to graduate training in psychology. Canadian Psychology, 21(2) 75-79.

Luce, S. R., and Wand, B. (1977). Sex differences in referrals to a rehabilitation facility for the physically disabled: A research note. Canadian Psychological Review, 18(1) 92-95.

Pyke, S. W. (1977). Selected characteristics of the female psychologist in the labour force. Canadian Psychological Review, 18(1) 23-33.

Pyke, S. W., and Stark-Adamec, C. (1981). Canadian feminism and psychology: The first decade. Canadian Psychology, 22(1) 38-54.

Ricks, F. A., Pyke, S. W., Ames, E. W., Parry, P., and Duncan, P. (1980). The status of women and men in Canadian psychology academia. Canadian Psychology, 21(3) 109-115.

Williams, T. M., Zabrack, M. L., and Harrison, L. F. (1980). Some factors affecting women's participation in psychology in Canada. Canadian Psychology, 21(3) 97-107.