Dr. Gail Hackett, UMKC Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, is one of the most respected and frequently cited researchers in the field of counseling psychology. A recent Web of Science analysis of the Journal of Counseling Psychology, the leading research journal in the field, revealed that two of Dr. Hackett’s articles are among the top 25 most cited articles in the Journal since its beginning in the 1950s. One of the two articles, “Contextual supports and barriers to career choice: a social cognitive analysis,” continues to be cited by researchers and is ranked among the top 25 during the last 10 years.
Dr. Terence Tracey, editor of the Journal, says, “Professor Hackett has had a very distinguished research career. Her articles have been cited a total of 3,451 times by others across all journals. This is a huge number. Even though most of her articles were published prior to 2000, they still are being cited in increasing numbers. Indeed during the last six years, there have been at least 170 citations per year. This pattern attests to the longstanding impact of her work in the field.”
Hackett’s work expands on Albert Bandura‘s self-efficacy theory which states that cognitive judgments of one’s capabilities are more predictive of behavior than any other factor, including past behavior. Renowned in the field of psychology, Bandura has been described as the top living psychologist. Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s confidence in his or her ability to succeed at a task or in a field of endeavor.
“It was a simple concept, but it was embedded in a complex theory,” Hackett says.
Hackett and Dr. Nancy E. Betz first described the potential applications of Bandura’s theory to understanding women’s career choices in a 1981 article in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, another top research journal, then tested their theoretical propositions in articles such as “The Relationship of Career-Related Self-Efficacy Expectations to Perceived Career Options in College Women and Men,” published in 1981 in the Journal of Counseling Psychology.
“It was Dr. Hackett and Betz’ brilliant insight to apply an established theory from one field of (social) psychology in a new way to a very different area [counseling psychology];” says Brent Mallinckrodt, former editor of the Journal of Counseling Psychology and the compiler of the Web of Science analysis. “We often see that such innovations have a tremendous capacity to move the second field forward and that has been the case with Dr. Hackett’s work.”
The 1981 article is ranked seventh among the top 25 cited in the Journal’s history.
“Nancy Betz and I were both interested in women’s career development because at the time [late 1970s and early 1980s] there wasn’t a lot of attention being paid to how women made vocational choices,” Hackett says.
Betz and Hackett believed that Bandura’s theory was particularly useful in explaining some of the anomalies that they saw in women’s career development, such as women’s career achievements being so far below their academic achievements and women’s under-representation in some career fields.
In a 1985 study, which culminated in another highly cited article, “Role of Mathematics Self-Efficacy in the Choice of Math-Related Majors of College Women and Men: A Path Analysis,” Hackett used statistical causal modeling analyses to test hypotheses from the self-efficacy theory demonstrating how socialization and educational experiences related to math and science affects self-efficacy, which then directly affects the choice of math-related college majors.
“This was one of the first examinations of mathematics self-efficacy and how crucial it is in predicting women’s math and science-related career choices,” Hackett says.
Through their research, Hackett and Betz found that females reported higher levels of self-efficacy in traditional occupations and significantly lower levels of self-efficacy in nontraditional occupations.
“Dr. Hackett is known as a leading scholar in the area of vocational psychology, an area of knowledge that is unique to Counseling Psychology and a large part of the profession’s identity,” says Dr. Nancy Murdock, UMKC Professor and Chair, Division of Counseling and Educational Psychology. “Her research in the area of career/vocational self-efficacy is known as groundbreaking and is foundational to a major theory of vocational behavior, social cognitive theory.”
Hackett and Betz discovered that self-efficacy expectations were produced by differences in socialization. This research was the first published research showing explicitly how socialization operates to undermine women’s confidence in the work world.
Another article - “Contextual Supports and Barriers to Career Choice: A Social Cognitive Analysis” by Robert W. Lent, Steven D. Brown and Hackett - applied an expanded version of Bandura’s theory, now termed social cognitive theory, to career decision making, career behavior and academic achievement. The article - among the top 25 cited within the last 10-15 years - attracted peer attention through its focus on environmental effects, barriers and supports on career decision making when it was published in 2000.
“Our social cognitive career theory, rooted in self-efficacy theory, is now considered one of the four or five major career theories in the field,” Hackett says.
The findings from these studies are used by educators and counselors working with young women and men.
“Most of the work we do is directly applicable,” Hackett says. “Our findings alert career counselors and other educators who are helping youth, adolescents or even adults that they need to pay close attention to people’s beliefs about their abilities when predicting future performance and choices. Many students underestimate their actual capabilities and thereby cut themselves off from viable educational and career options.”
Since the research was conducted, more women are entering non-traditional fields.
“There’s been a lot of progress,” Hackett says. “Yet, there are still a disproportionately low number of women entering fields such as engineering and females are still under-represented at the top of the career ladder.”
More recently, Hackett and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Arizona State University have received funding from the National Science Foundation to identify the supports and barriers that steer girls toward or away from sciences and math during their education.
Since being named Provost at UMKC in 2008, Hackett has had one journal article published and has another article, and a book chapter, pending publication.
Regarding the long-term influence of Hackett’s work, Dr. Tracey says, “Using a recent study of faculty productivity in counseling psychology as a benchmark, Professor Hackett is among the top two individuals in the field in total citations and in the top seven when using the H index, an index of total impact on the field. These are impressive statistics. Her work served as a standard for the field and still does.”
[Statistics on UMKC enrollment figures, including numbers of women enrolling in fields across all academic units is compiled by UMKC’s Department of Institutional Research and Planning: Comprehensive Enrollment Report -2011 Fall Semester.]