Clinical Social Workers, Gender, and Perceptions of Political Participation


  • Jason A. Ostrander Sacred Heart University, Department of Social Work
  • Janelle Bryan Sacred Heart University
  • Shannon R. Lane Yeshiva University



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.

Author Biography

Jason A. Ostrander, Sacred Heart University, Department of Social Work

Jason Ostrander, Ph.D., MSW, BSW is Assistant Professor at Sacred Heart University's Department of Social Work. He was previously employed as a congressional aide to Congressman John Olver and has been active in politics on the local, state, and federal levels.  His scholarly work focuses on political social work, the political participation of social workers, program evaluation, and policy implications relating to marginalized and oppressed populations. Jason is an active member of NASW and serves on the Research Committee and as a training consultant for Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work.


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