Becoming a Gerontologist: Lessons From the WIGL Project

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The WIGL (Women in Gerontology Legacy) Project emanates from the Gerontological Society of America’s Task Force on Women. The project works to capture the life course trajectories of older women gerontologists, develop understanding, and share insights so that the field may understand both its past and future. Since 2014, over 40 women participated in the WIGL Project. One component of the research involves identifying when these women embraced the term “gerontologist” as their professional identity, or when they began using “gerontologist” as a self-identifier. Through structured interviews, four themes relating to gerontologist professional identity (GPI) are identified: Accidental, Prescriptive, None, Location/Situational. The accidental gerontologist includes those who began in another field and through their work, self-identified as a gerontologist. Prescriptive gerontologists reflect identity acquisition through training as a gerontologist within research, policy, or education. Some of the women indicated they do not claim a gerontologist professional identity, and indicated, “I am not a gerontologist; I am a _____,” Interestingly several women embraced multiple professional identities, including gerontologist, but it was location or situational dependent. Thus, during a gerontological conference, the gerontologist professional identity was embraced, but at other times or places another professional identity was utilized. This presentation will report preliminary findings from the first phase of this project, funded by the GSA Mentoring Effect. Additionally, we will discuss future stages of this project as related to mentoring, gender, and professional/personal relationships.


Gerontological Society of America Annual Meeting (GSA)


Orlando, FL