Clinical Social Workers, Gender, and Perceptions of Political Participation
Keywords:clinical social work, civic engagement, policy, political participation, gender, socialization
Political participation to create social change is considered a professional and ethical imperative for social workers. Although researchers have examined overall political participation by social workers, little is known about how clinical social workers participate and the broader societal factors that influence their political participation. A critical phenomenological methodology was used with a sample of 23 clinical social workers from New England states to (1) identify how socio-political forces influenced their political activity; and, (2) understand how the concept of power affected individuals’ level of engagement or inclination toward the political process. This article describes one of the study’s major findings. Female participants described themselves as unqualified and/or unknowledgeable in the political sphere, with low levels of ambition and confidence to engage in political processes. Many female participants also described the challenges of achieving a work-life balance between their careers and traditional gender-based roles with little time left for political engagement. Social work education and policy advocacy can affect change that will increase the internal and external efficacy of social workers and create a policy environment that allows more options for all social workers in balancing the demands of professional and personal lives.
Barabas, J., Jerit, J., Pollock, W., & Rainey, C. (2014). The question(s) of political knowledge. American Political Science Review, 108(4), 840-855. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/s0003055414000392
Bari, F. (2005). Women’s political participation: Issues and challenges (draft). Retrieved from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/egm/enabling-environment2005/docs/EGM-WPD-EE-2005-EP.12%20%20draft%20F.pdf
Beaumont, E. (2011). Promoting political agency, addressing political inequality: A multilevel model of internal political efficacy. The Journal of Politics, 73(1), 216-231. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/s0022381610000976
Bernklau Halvor, C. D. (2016). Increasing social work students’ political interest and efficacy. Journal of Policy Practice, 15(4), 289-313.
Burns, N., Schlozman, K. L., & Verba, S. (2001). The private roots of public action: Gender, equality, and political participation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/s1468109903211026
Campbell, A., Gurin, G., & Miller, W. E. (1954). The voter decides. Oxford: Row, Peterson, & Co.
Caprara, G. V., Vecchione, M., Capanna, C., & Mebane, M. (2009). Perceived political self-efficacy: Theory, assessment and applications. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39(6), 1002-1020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.604
Council on Social Work Education [CSWE]. (2015). Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards for baccalaureate and master’s social work programs. Retrieved from http://www.cswe.org/File.aspx?id=81660
CSWE. (n.d.). Policy practice in field education. Retrieved from https://www.cswe.org/Centers-Initiatives/Initiatives/Policy-Practice-in-Field-Education-Initiative/Grantees-List
Dolan, K. (2010). Do women and men know different things? Measuring gender differences in political knowledge. The Journal of Politics, 73(1), 97-107.
Enloe, C. (2004). The curious feminist. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Ezell, M. (1993). The political activity of social workers: A post-Reagan update. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 20(4), 81-97.
Fisher, R., & Karger, H. J. (1997). Social work and community in a private world: Getting out in public. White Plains, N.Y: Longman.
Fox, R. L. (2011). Studying gender in U.S. politics: Where do we go from here? Politics and Gender, 7(1), 94-99. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/s1743923x10000589
Fox, R. L., & Lawless, J. (2010). If only they'd ask: Gender, recruitment, and political ambition. Journal of Politics, 72(2), 310-326.
Fox, R. L., & Lawless, J. L. (2011). Gendered perceptions and political candidacies: A central barrier to women's equality in electoral politics. American Journal of Political Science, 55(1), 59-73. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5907.2010.00484.x
Fox, R. L., & Lawless, J. (2012). Men rule: The continued under-representation of women in U.S. politics. Retrieved from https://www.american.edu/spa/wpi/upload/2012-Men-Rule-Report-final-web.pdf
Freedman, E. (2002). No turning back. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Fulton, S., Maestas, C., Maisel, S., & Stone, W. (2006). The sense of a woman: Gender, ambition, and the decision to run for Congress. Political Research Quarterly, 59(2), 235-248. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/106591290605900206
Hannagan, R. J., Littvay, L., & Popa, S. A. (2014). Theorizing sex differences in political knowledge: Insights from a twin study. Politics and Gender, 10(1), 89-114.
Harding, S. (2004). The sound of silence: Social work, the academy, and Iraq. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 31(2), 179-197.
Harris, J., & White, V. (2013). Clinical social work. In A dictionary of social work and social care. Oxford University Press [online]. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199543052.001.0001/acref-9780199543052-e-310.
Haynes, K. S., & Mickelson, J. S. (2009). Affecting change: Social workers in the political arena (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Prentice Hall.
Hill, K., Erickson, C. L., Donaldson, L. P., Fogel, S. J., & Ferguson, S. M. (2017). Perceptions of macro social work education: An exploratory study of educators and practitioners. Advances in Social Work, 18(2), 522-542.
Lane, R. E. (1959). Political life: Why people get involved in politics. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/ncr.4100480914
Lane, S. R., Ostrander, J., & Smith, T. R. (2017). ‘Politics is social work with power’: Training social workers for elected office. Social Work Education 37(1), 1-16.
Lane, S. R., & Humphreys, N. A. (2011). Social workers in politics: A national survey of social work candidates for elected office. Journal of Policy Practice, 10, 225-244. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/15588742.2011.582809
Lawless, J., & Fox, R. L. (2010). It still takes a candidate: Why women don't run for office (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Lister, R. (2007). Inclusive citizenship: Realizing the potential. Citizenship Studies, 11(1), 49-61. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/13621020601099856
Lizotte, M.-K., & Sidman, A. H. (2009). Explaining the gender gap in political knowledge. Politics & Gender, 5(02), 127-151. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/s1743923x09000130
Mattocks, N. (2018). Social action among social work practitioners: Examining the micro–macro divide. Social Work, 63(1), 7-16. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/swx057
McClendon, J., Lane, S. R., Ostrander, J., & Smith, T. (in press). Training social workers for political engagement: Exploring regional differences in the United States. Journal of Teaching in Social Work.
Meehan, P. (2018). “I think I can . . . maybe I can . . . I can’t”: Social work women and local elected office. Social Work, 63(2), 145-152. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/swy006
Mendelberg, T., Karpowitz, C. F., & Goedert, N. (2014). Does descriptive representation facilitate women's distinctive voice? How gender composition and decision rules affect deliberation. American Journal of Political Science, 58(2), 291-306.
NASW Center for Workforce Studies. (2005). Assuring the sufficiency of a frontline workforce: A national study of licensed social workers. Retrieved from http://www.naswdc.org/resources/workforce/files/NASW_SWCassuring_3.pdf
Nir, L., & McClurg, S. D. (2015). How institutions affect gender gaps in public opinion expression. Public Opinion Quarterly, 79(2), 544-567.
Ondercin, H. L., & Jones-White, D. (2011). Gender jeopardy: What is the impact of gender differences in political knowledge on political participation? Social Science Quarterly, 92(3), 675-694. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2011.00787.x
Ostrander, J. (2017). To participate or not to participate, that is the question: A critical phenomenological study of clinical social workers and their political participation. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/dissertations/1296
Ostrander, J. A., Lane, S. R., McClendon, J., Hayes, C., & Smith, T. R. (2017). Collective power to create political change: Increasing the political efficacy and engagement of social workers. Journal of Policy Practice, 16(3), 261-275.
Padgett, D. (2016). Qualitative methods in social work research (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.
Pritzker, S., & Lane, S. R. (2014). Integrating policy and political content in BSW and MSW field placements. Journal of Social Work Education, 50(4), 730-739.
Reeser, L. C., & Epstein, I. (1990). Professionalization and activism in social work: The sixties, the eighties, and the future. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Ritter, J. A. (2007). Evaluating the political participation of licensed social workers in the new millennium. Journal of Policy Practice, 6(4), 61-78.
Rocha, C., Poe, B., & Thomas, V. (2010). Political activities of social workers: Addressing perceived barriers to political participation. Social Work, 55(4), 317-325. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/55.4.317
Rome, S. H., & Hoechstetter, S. (2010). Social work and civic engagement: The political participation of professional social workers. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 37(3), 107-129.
Rome, S. H., Hoechstetter, S., & Wolf-Branigin, M. (2010). Pushing the envelope: Empowering clients for political action. Journal of Policy Practice, 9(3), 201-219. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/15588742.2010.487236
Rothman, J. (2013, June). Education for macro intervention: A survey of problems and prospects. Retrieved from https://www.acosa.org/joomla/pdf/RothmanReportRevisedJune2013.pdf
Salcido, R. M. (1984). Social work practice in political campaigns. Social Work, 29(2), 189-191. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/29.2.189
Saldana, J. (2013). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Schlozman, K., Verba, S., & Brady, H. (1997). The big tilt: Participatory inequality in America. The American Prospect. Retrieved from http://prospect.org/article/big-tilt
Silbermann, R. (2015). Gender roles, work-life balance, and running for office. Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 10(2), 123-153. doi: https://doi.org/10.1561/100.00014087
Swank, E. W. (2012). Predictors of political activism among social work students. Journal of Social Work Education, 48(2), 245-266.
Thomas, M. (2012). The complexity conundrum: Why hasn't the gender gap in subjective political competence closed? Canadian Journal of Political Science, 45(2), 337-358. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/s0008423912000352
Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. E. (1995). Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Weismiller, T., & Rome, S. H. (1995). Social workers in politics. In T. Mizrahi & L. E. Davis (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social work (19th ed., pp. 2305-2313). Silver Springs, MD: NASW Press.
Wolk, J. L. (1981). Are social workers politically active? Social Work, 26(4), 283-288.