Research and Survey Results

The purpose of the survey was (1) to support the premise that relatively few women perceive themselves as courageous, and (2) to identify women who did perceive themselves as courageous, and to tell their stories so you can recognize courage when it appears.

The women identified as courageous were also asked to provide the following information:

  1. Give your definition of courage.
  2. List personal experiences of courage and any noted behavioral trends behind the actions.
  3. Write approximately 120 words on “What courage means to me.”

The survey was distributed to a random sampling of women by passing them out at my training seminars and at women’s business meetings. I also gave them to neighbors and friends. All were encouraged to duplicate the survey sheet, pass, mail, or fax it to other women. I wanted to reach the “common” woman, i.e., EveryWoman. I received over seven hundred survey forms. Ages of survey respondents ranged from 21 to 87, with the majority of respondents between the ages of 31 and 50. Ages 21 to 30 were moderately represented, and ages 51 to 60 comprised the smallest group of respondents. Most respondents had attended some college and many had earned degrees.

The research findings support my prediction that “courageous” is not a common adjective for women to use in describing themselves. Out of almost 700 respondents on the survey, only 71 women perceived and described themselves as courageous.

Yet, the survey also suggests that the women who completed the survey had positive perceptions of themselves. The most frequently circled adjectives were:

honest open-minded intelligent happy
determined intuitive independent goal-oriented

Many of the women may have circled these particular adjectives because they represent socially desirable traits in our society. These objectives represent relationship and community, the two dominant aspects of women’s social roles in our society.

Least common perceptions included:

courageous moderate gutsy ordered
humble bold liberal reserved fulfilled

The women may not have identified, or may not have reported their identification, with adjectives such as courageous, gutsy, and bold because such words are more stereotypical of masculine traits in our society. They may not have identified with adjectives like liberal and moderate because these words may suggest some type of political affiliation.

Interestingly, in follow-up interviews, self-identified courageous women, as a group, were found to be quite similar to women who did not identify themselves as courageous. This supported my premise that women who think of themselves as courageous may not comprise a large percentage of the population, but are a distinct group that has embraced the concept of courage as a tool for fulfillment in their lives.

Courageous women, like non-courageous women, rated themselves as:

intelligent open-minded honest
happy independent

At the other end of the spectrum, both courageous and non-courageous less frequently circled:

ordered liberal reserved moderate

Non-courageous women reported being more:

practical (27.4 percent versus 12.7 percent)

sensible (33.1 percent versus 14.1 percent)

Courageous women reported being more:

bold (12.7 percent versus 5.4 percent)

gutsy (18.3 percent versus 9.2 percent)

visionary (26.8 percent versus 11.0 percent)