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Professional Competency Self-Efficacy of Undergraduate Students:

What Assessments Revealed About Gender & Skills Development in University Students

Our latest research cliff notes article reviews a study conducted at the University of Nebraska. The study measured the soft skills of college students and found a difference in the level and types of skills between genders. This study suggests that for a variety of reasons, male and female students do not bring in the same sets of soft skills into a college classroom. The impact of their educational experiences on male and female students is different. Your takeaway? Be careful of possible discrepancies in the workplace; make sure that every member of your team gets similar development opportunities.

What Did the Study Measure?

This study included a pre-post examination on the soft skills of 186 students (107 females, 79 males) in an environmental program.

This study examined changes in the student’s perceived ability (i.e., self-efficacy) to successfully perform 23 “soft skills/professional competencies” as a result of their undergraduate experience while in the program. The study then explored differences between male and female student perceptions concerning these skills/competencies.

What Is Self-Efficacy?

Self-efficacy is a person’s perception of their ability (i.e., confidence) to successfully perform a task or behavior. It influences a person’s ability to perform skills.

The extent to which a student believes in their academic capabilities is a key motivational factor related to student performance. If an individual’s expectations are positive they can perform certain skills, this positively contributes to the actual physical, social, or self-evaluative outcomes.

The value of defining self-efficacy in this paper lies in the fact that when people say, in this case, that they possess a skill in a self-report assessment, it is a strong predictor of actual performance being present.

People can be trained, but leaders need to be conscious of the potential of gender differences that may influence skill development.

What Do the Results of the Study Mean?

This study suggests that for a variety of reasons, male and female students do not bring in the same sets of soft skills into a college classroom. The impact of their educational experiences on male and female students is different. Actual differences between students result from many factors and contexts associated with their academic and sociocultural experience. Educational experiences may exacerbate the differences between genders and not necessarily reduce the differences.

Why Is It Important?

There are two important takeaways from this study

People of Different Genders Might Experience Discrepancies in Workplace Development

Women and men bring different skill sets to a job as a result of the differential roles that women and men occupy in society. As a result, these two genders may experience professional development opportunities in different ways that could reinforce the differences.

Leaders Need to Consciously Develop the Skills of All of Their Employees

The good news is that competencies can be learned and developed when individuals actively engage in activities where they can practice these skills. People can be trained, but leaders need to be conscious of the potential of gender differences that may influence skill development.

If You Want to Dig Further Into This Research, Read the Peer-Reviewed Published Paper