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Monumental Contributions of Women in Psychology


Monumental Contributions of Women in Psychology Kaizen Wellbeing  Kaizenwb Online therapy in Dubai

If somebody were to ask you to name someone well known in the field of psychology, your answer would probably be Freud, Skinner, or even Watson. Research has estimated that in the early 1900s in the United States, one in ten psychologists were women. Still, due to the inadequate representation of women in the history of psychology, many were not given the recognition they deserved. Due to the same reason, the contributions of women psychologists are often overlooked in psychology textbooks compared to their male counterparts. Some of these women psychologists were also denied their doctoral degrees simply because they were women.

However, these days more and more women are being recognized for their trailblazing and monumental contributions to psychology. Some of them are listed below:


Lillian Moller Gilbreth

Gilbreth was a pioneer in the field of industrial and organizational psychology. She also introduced the notable time and motion study as a method to increase the efficiency of industrial employees. She spent her life advocating the application of psychology and played a significant role in shaping the development of applied psychology in the early 20th century. She tried to bring in a human component wherever possible and has written extensively on topics like leadership, job analysis, group training, non-financial incentives, and personnel issues. For her contributions in management, she is also known as the mother of management.


Mary Whiton Calkins

Mary Whiton Calkins was an American psychologist and the first female president of the American Psychological Association. She has a doctorate in psychology but was never formally awarded the degree by Harvard since she was a woman. She is well known for inventing the paired-associate task used to study memory. This technique was later published by Titchener, who claimed credit for its development. She is also well known for her work in self-psychology and believed that the conscious self was the primary focus of psychology. In addition to this, she has also written over a hundred professional papers on psychology.


Mary Ainsworth

Mary Ainsworth was a well-known developmental psychologist who is well known for her contributions in the field of attachment theory. She elaborated on Bowlby’s research on attachment and developed an approach to study the attachment of children to their parents or caregivers. She created the well-known ‘Strange Situation’ assessments to study children’s attachment styles. She proposed three attachment styles that children have with their parents or caregivers based on her research. This contribution has played an essential role in the understanding of child development.


Leta Stetter Hollingworth

Hollingworth was also an early pioneer in psychology and is best known for her contributions to the area of intelligence. Unlike her contemporaries, she believed that intelligence was influenced by education and culture, who maintained that intelligence was primarily due to genetic inheritance. She is perhaps well known for her research on exceptional children and women. She believed in the importance of creating a curriculum for fostering the specific needs of gifted children and authored the first comprehensive book about gifted children. She also challenged the premise held during her time that women were mentally incapacitated during menstruation and that women as a group were more similar than men as a group.


Karen Horney

Karen Horney was a well-known Neo-Freudian who openly challenged certain aspects of Freudian psychology, and her take on feminine psychology. She introduced the concept of ‘womb envy’ in contrast to Freud’s proposition of ‘penis envy,’ which refers to male envy of pregnancy and motherhood, which drove them to assert their superiority in other fields. She is a pioneer in feminine psychiatry, which focuses on the psychiatric treatment of women and how power imbalances between men and women have a significant impact on mental health. She also proposed a theory on neurotic needs and believed that people were capable of taking a more personal role in their own mental health.


Melanie Klein

Play therapy is a popular method used to help children express their feelings and experiences in a way most natural to them. But most people are not aware that the psychologist behind the development of this therapy was Melanie Klein. She went against most of the premises held by Freud and gave a unique insight into child development. She believed that play therapy could be used to understand a child’s unconscious feelings, anxieties, and experiences. She also developed the object relations theory, which was used to understand the interactions between a mother and her child. It was believed that this relationship formed the prototype for later relations.


Mamie Phipps Clark

Clark was the first black woman to earn a degree from Columbia University and went on to become an influential psychologist. She made significant contributions to psychology, including the Clark doll test and research on race, racial identity, and self-esteem. Her research on the latter helped pave the way for future research on self-concept among minorities.


Marie Jahoda

An eminent social psychologist, Jahoda, conducted pioneering studies into racial prejudice, authoritarian personality, and the concept of positive mental health. She also carried out a groundbreaking research on the psychological impact of unemployment along with her husband. In 1958, Jahoda developed the theory of ideal mental health, which describes factors that help achieve ideal mental health.


Elizabeth Koppitz

A pioneer in learning disabilities and special education, Elizabeth Koppitz wrote several influential books within the field of psychoeducational assessment of children; including, The Bender Gestalt Test for Young Children in 1964 and Psychological Evaluation of Children's Human Figure Drawings in 1968.


Eleanor Maccoby

Eleanor Maccoby's name is likely familiar to anyone who has ever studied developmental psychology. She carried out pioneering work in the psychology of sex differences which has played a significant role in our current understanding of things like socialization, biological influences on sex differences, and gender roles. She was the first woman to chair the psychology department at Stanford University and, by her own admission, the first woman to deliver a lecture at Stanford wearing a pantsuit! For her numerous contributions to psychology, the famous Maccoby Book Award has been named after her.


The names listed above are just a tiny portion of the many women who have contributed to the field of psychology. As times progressed, the number of women in psychology has increased, and they no longer make up a minority in psychology.


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