Situational assertiveness of South African registered dietitians.
Female dominated professions are lower in status because occupational prestige is higher for men than for women in the science, maths and technology occupations (Farmer, Rotella, Anderson & Wardrop 1998). The female dominated professions are paid less and are viewed as less desirable and less worth (Atwater & Van Fleet 1997). It was hypothesised that the reason why dietetics as a female dominated profession had lower status and the other attributes of a female dominated profession could have been due to decreased levels of assertiveness and increased levels of anxiety when they were dealing with the male dominated professions such as the medical profession. It was theorised that a number of factors affected levels of anxiety and assertiveness and a model, developed from the literature, was presented to describe these effects. A random sample of female dietitians (n=321) and all male dietitians (n=29) who were registered with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) at the beginning of 1999, were mailed questionnaires which contained questions on demographic information and self-assessment inventories. Of these one hundred and forty-five useable questionnaires from female (n=135) and male (n=10) dietitians were returned. Information received from the HPCSA and analysis of their register revealed that dietetics was a female dominated profession. Of the dietitians registered at the end of 1999(n=1260), 97%(n=1217) were females, and 3% (n= 34) were males. The majority of dietitians in the sample were Afrikaans speaking (n=73), and were from the highest socioeconomic group (n=74). The largest number(n=56) trained at the University of Pretoria. The average age of the dietitians was 32.4(±8.56). Almost a quarter of the sample had post registration qualifications (n=34). The majority had no formal training in assertiveness (n=92). The results of the inventories showed that dietitians had levels of assertiveness and anxiety that were within the norms as noted in the literature. This meant that the lower status of dietetics must be attributable to something else. Levels of self-efficacy were significantly higher than test levels quoted in the literature and this had a positive effect on the levels of assertiveness. Job satisfaction levels were significantly lower than American dentists. This was ascribed to poor pay, and difficulty in obtaining employment as a dietitian. None of the other factors tested for affected the level of assertiveness. An amended model Amended Factors Affecting Assertiveness using the findings of this research project has been presented. This is a simpler concept than the original model.