Women and Occupational Development
If you were to guess what the young woman in the photograph who has just graduated from college will be doing occupationally 10 years from now, what would you say? Would you guess that she will be strongly committed to her occupation? Would she have abandoned it for other things? Betz (1984) wanted to know the answers, so she examined the occupational histories of 500 college women 10 years after graduation. Two-thirds of these women were highly committed to their occupations, which for 70% were traditionally female ones. Most had worked continuously since graduation.
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Researchers want to know what these women will be doing occupationally.
Only 1% had been full-time homemakers during the entire 10-year period; 79% reported that they had successfully combined occupations with homemaking. Women in traditional female occupations changed jobs less often. If they did change, the move was more likely to be to a job with a lower rank and pay compared to the changes made by women in nontraditional occupations.
An intriguing question is why highly educated women leave what appear to be well-paid occupations. Studies of formerly working women with master of business administration degrees (MBAs) with children have identified a number of family and workplace issues (Gutek & Gilliland, 2007; Rosin & Korabik, 1990, 1991). Family obligations, such as child care, appear to be most important for mothers working part time. For these women,
462 CHAPTER 12 adequate child-care arrangements or having the flexibility to be at home when children get out of school often make the difference between being able to accept a job or remaining at home. In contrast, mothers who have made the decision to work full time have resolved the problem of child care. The most important workplace issues for these women are gender-related. Unsupportive or insensitive work environments, organizational politics, and the lack of occupational development opportunities appear most important for women working full time (Schwartz, 1992; Welle & Heilman, 2007). In this case, women are focusing on issues that could create barriers to their occupational development and are looking for ways around the barriers.
Such barriers are a major reason why women’s workforce participation does not show the developmental upward climb that is evident in men’s career development. Because they cannot find affordable and dependable child care, or freely choose to take on this responsibility, many women stay home while their children are young. The lack of continuity in job participation makes it difficult to maintain an upward trajectory in one’s career through promotion, and in terms of maintaining skills. Some women make this choice willingly; however, many find they are forced into it.