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Social learning and career navigation in the U.S. military: The personal experiences, observations and socializations of servicewomen

APA Citation:

Erwin, S. K. (2022). Social learning and career navigation in the U.S. military: The personal experiences, observations and socializations of servicewomen. Industrial and Commercial Training, 54(4), 613-622. https://doi.org/10.1108/ICT-01-2022-0005

Abstract Created by REACH:

Using the theoretical guidance of social learning theory, which suggests that individuals learn through observation and interaction, this study examined how senior enlisted Servicewomen (N = 12) in the US military use social learning to navigate career development. Because US military culture centers around collectivism (the practice of prioritizing the group over the individual) and androcentrism (the propensity to organize around men and men’s needs), the author asserts that it is necessary to understand obstacles to career navigation for underrepresented and minority Service members, in this case, women, especially women of color. Interviews with these senior enlisted Servicewomen explored their experiences. Several themes emerged highlighting the role of different types of social learning (e.g., personal experiences, observations) and symbolic interactions in understanding career navigation and progression.



Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member


Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Qualitative Study


Erwin, Stephanie K.


Purpose This paper aims to explore the interactions of social learning and career navigation and their associated implications for women in military service. Design/methodology/approach Social learning theory (Bandura, 1977) exposes and aids in understanding the ability of an organization’s members to reconcile their personal experiences, socialization and observations. Drawn from a larger qualitative study of gender in the US military, this study highlights the US military’s rigorous socialization practices and the reliance on communal memory and social learning including matters pertaining to gender including career navigation. Findings Military servicewomen use these processes to learn military culture, acceptable behaviors, institutional norms and organizational realities for career navigation reflective of gender. Originality/value This article presents a novel exploration of gender in the military as it pertains to social learning and career progression.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Emerald Insight

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

USAF Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, SKE


social learning, career navigation, military culture, gender

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  December 2022

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