Gender and the Strong Interest Inventory®: Two of the Most Common Questions

Posted 19 January 2016 by
Global Marketing

Written by Cheryl Hollatz-Wisely, MEd, Lead Trainer, GS Consultants

Gender and the Strong Interest Inventory®: Two of the Most Common Questions

QUESTION #1:  “Why does the Strong still use gendered reports??!!??”

I get this question all the time, and I can absolutely see why people might ask.  Back in the 70s when I first took the Strong Interest Inventory, I remember being a bit offended that my gender seemed to matter.  As a Title IX girl, I felt like someone was trying to put me into a box.

It was only decades later when I studied the Strong in my counseling program and then later became a Strong Certified Practitioner that I understood: The Strong is all about the data.

As long as statistically significant differences are found in how men and women take the Strong Interest Inventory, the Strong will continue to provide gendered information on the results.  The Strong is and has always been, about the empirical research.  

The reason we are asked to indicate our gender when we take the Strong is that the publisher of the Strong (CPP, Inc.) and its researchers want to be sure that we each receive the information that is most accurate for us, based on the gender with which we identify.

The Strong is normed on a General Representative Sample (GRS), reflecting a diverse sample of 2,250 workers in the United States. Every time the Strong is updated and re-normed the research shows that although men and women share a great deal in common, they continue to come up differently on enough of the scales to warrant separate gendered results.  For example, here are just some of the differences on the Strong between men and women:

Did you know that men have an average score of 55 on Realistic?

And that women score, on average, 45 on Realistic?

Men and women are very different on this theme as 10-points (1 Standard Deviation, for those readers who love statistics) is a really big spread and indicates quite a significant difference!

As for the Occupational Scales, the coding of the OSs shows us how the personalities of men and women who do these jobs can really differ.  Did you know that . . .

Male Dietitians are coded IES, which suggests that they are motivated by using research and ideas (I) to influence or persuade others (E) in ways that will be helpful (S).

SEC is the code for Female Dietitians, suggesting that they are motivated to help others (S) through influence or persuasion (E) in structured and practical ways (C).

Appendix D of the Strong Interest Inventory User’s Guide (CPP, Inc., 2012), p. 59, provides a great summary of the average scores for men and women for all the GRS normed scales and Appendix B has the coding of the Occupational Scales for each gender. Take a peek and you will see the scales where men and women are similar to each other, as well as those where the results are different.

QUESTION #2:  “How does the Strong apply to gay, trans and queer clients??!!?”

This is (thankfully!) a question that is being asked more and more in the Strong Certification Program I teach as well as in the Strong Practitioners LinkedIn group.  As I discussed in the recent CPP Webinar, the Strong is reliable and valid for use with all our clients.

The important thing to remember is that we want our students and clients to indicate on the Strong the gender with which they identify.  Most gay, lesbian, bi and trans individuals have a gender with which they identify.   Clients and students are to indicate that preference, when they take the Strong.

And what about our gender-neutral or gender-queer clients?  As explained in the webinar, you have the client choose one gender as a starting point, and then the career practitioner can run both sets of results, for each of the genders.  That way you will have the full universe of results to work with.

In the webinar, I told a story of the work I did with AJ, a gender-neutral client.   I gave examples of how I used the reports from both genders for AJ’s interpretation.  It doesn’t matter which gender the client chooses since you can provide both versions of the results in the interpretation session.  When you do this, you will notice that several essential elements of the GOT, BIS and PSS don’t change for the genders. These are: the length of the bars/the location of the diamond and the client’s Standard Scores.   The aspects of the Strong that do change for the Male/Female results are the Interpretive Comments and the Occupational Scales.  However, you will notice that even across gender-differences, you will notice emerging themes and patterns that bridge the male/female binary.   We get to move from the science of the Strong (the pure data) into the art of the Strong (the patterns and connections).  This is where the conversations get rich, and we get to stretch our use of the assessment in new and exciting ways.

CPP Research has produced a white paper on the reliability and validity of using the Strong with GLBT clients.  As a practitioner, I am so pleased that the research is happening, and that GLBTQ individuals are becoming a more overt part of our conversations!

Stay tuned for Cheryl's next blog:  Practical Strategies for Challenging or Inconsistent Results.