Economics, Ethics, and Feminism in
Canadian Psychology (1980-1990)

Ruth Skinner, Robert Miller, & Carmen Sidhu
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University

During the early eighties, publication of the periodical Canadian Psychology was marked by an interest in the economics within psychology, being reflective of the turbulence that was occurring in both the Canadian and the World economies. Some articles with an economic focus centred on the individuals within psychology and others focused more on the schools and their programs. At one end of the spectrum were articles on job search techniques for Ph.D. psychologists, hiring processes in academic psychology and recruitment at Canada's universities - articles aimed at helping individuals with a psychology degree to secure a place in the profession. At the other end of the spectrum were articles that helped the researchers, departments or schools find the money that they needed to conduct their research. Some examples of the subjects that were examined were how to get research funding and how to understand federal granting procedures.

The early part of the decade also had a high proportion of articles on ethical issues in Canadian Psychology . This ethical debate was also representative of the downturn within the economy. Ethical debates do not require funding as does pure research, this appears to have made it an attractive and prolific subject. Many ethical discussions during this time hoped to provide guidelines for other Canadian psychologists on issues such as legal standards and how to conduct non-sexist research. Other research took on a more introspective approach, considering the effects of psychology on society, the reliability of ethics within society, and the problems within psychology.

The emergence of ethical discussions also had a beneficial effect on Feminist Psychology because many of the articles that were published were related to women and psychology . As more and more women entered the field of psychology, and held positions of authority and power , the more research women were able to conduct into issues which concerned them. For example, during this time of recognition, the president of the CPA was Vairu Vikes-Freibergs - she was appointed in 1979, becoming the CPA's third female president. Another important female psychologist to be recognised was Virginia I. Douglas. In 1980 she was awarded the first ever CPA award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology as a Profession.

A greater acknowledgement of women and their abilities in the professional field was tempered, however, by the discovery that many of the articles which were published concerning women's issues were done predominantly be women and usually by the same four or five authors. Just as important was the finding that even with the advances that had been made by women, they were still being undervalued. There was a surge of women within the professional field of psychology during the early eighties, but those new professional women still made substantially less money than professional men did.

The concern which was building for women's issues during this time was not limited to just the women psychologists. A greater concern for the type of treatment and counselling that women were receiving was also evident. For instance, the guidelines for therapy and counselling with women was published to aid in the cessation of sexist attitudes that some therapists had when dealing with female clients. Furthermore, a handbook entitled The Therapy and Counselling of Women: A Handbook on Educational Materials, was also published in an attempt to supplement those guidelines.

The time spanning from 1986-1990 also saw an increased concern in the ethical conduct within the psychological realm, as well as an increase in the awareness and research of women. New guidelines for ethical decision making , gave the patient the right to participate in decisions regarding what type of treatment would be appropriate, based on a mutually agreed upon strategy. In addition, due to an increase in the number of women entering the field, numerous studies regarding the stature and disposition of women increased. This was further reinforced by an ethical duty not to discriminate and exclude women from psychological research.

One study, by Hilary M. Lips (1988), focused on women's place within the workforce and showcased how some women must deal not only with the external pressures of an inferiority stereotype, but also with the additional pressure of prejudice which ultimately leads to further discrimination. Women entering the workforce were also expected to fulfil the domestic requirements of household chores and child-rearing. The women focused on in this study were unable "to successfully enter and master science programs" (Lips, 1988, p. ) because of a superwomen mentality that they were unable to live up to. This findings based on gender may or may not have relevance in the future, further studies must be conducted in different settings to provide more substantive results.

Another study devoted to women, utilised four cognitive/behavioural theories to evaluate whether or not women suffered higher depression rates than men (Janet M. Stoppard 1989). The study proved that cognitive/behavioural theories are male-biased and insufficient for developing an understanding of depression in women. This provided further evidence that much progress is needed in order to develop gender-neutral theories for psychological assessment.

In conclusion, the eighties saw an increased awareness for ethical concerns and conduct which in turn led to an increase in studies involving women. The important advances that were made during this decade in the area of women's issues can only continue if the men and women of psychology make an effort to destroy sexist attitudes that persisted throughout this decade. This sexist attitude caused research to be unnecessarily biased and therefore unscientific. This unethical approach to research not only served to hamper the advancement of the discipline towards pure science, but also to further promote the ludicrous notion that women are inferior to men.