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

Janell C. Fetterolf, Alice H. Eagly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-93
Number of pages11
JournalSex Roles
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Domestic equality
  • Gender equality
  • Possible selves
  • Undergraduate women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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