Entitlement, choice and leadership ambivalence: the occupational aspirations and experiences of young women in a post-feminist era

Baker, Joanne L. (2008) Entitlement, choice and leadership ambivalence: the occupational aspirations and experiences of young women in a post-feminist era. In: Engendering leadership through research and practice, pp. 55-62. From: Engendering leadership through research and practice, 21-24 July 2008, Perth, WA, Australia.

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Abstract

Popular culture and much academic work increasingly endorse the idea that social and economic changes have ushered in a time of unparalleled choice and entitlement for young women. Indeed, in this ‘post-feminist’ era (McRobbie 2004) it is unfashionable to suggest that the lives of young women are determined to any significant degree by gender rather than by self-design and individual performance. In light of triumphant assumptions of a ‘genderquake’, it is reasonable to expect that the widening of opportunities and dismantling of formal exclusions for young women has led to expanded occupational goals and their increased engagement with ideas about and ambitions of leadership. This paper discusses the findings of qualitative Australian research with young women which challenges contemporary optimism about the nature and extent of female empowerment in relation to employment aspirations and leadership. Consistent with the discourse of a newly empowered and modernised femininity, the majority of the young women in this research articulated a sense of increased entitlement to a range of occupational ambitions. Despite this, the employment goals that were actually identified revealed some seemingly intransigent features of women’s relationship to employment and leadership. These included a persistent and widespread orientation to people-focused, caring work; a positioning as a family’s primary carer and secondary earner; discomfort with competitive and masculinised occupational behaviour and fears about transgressing traditional forms of femininity in the realm of employment. Crucially, however, these features are now articulated and accounted for within a discourse of individualised choice and personal responsibility which works to obscure the continuation – albeit in less explicit forms – of historically and culturally imposed limits for women.

Item ID: 7622
Item Type: Conference Item (Refereed Research Paper - E1)
Keywords: young women; occupational aspirations; post-feminist; empowerment; leadership
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ISBN: 978-1-74052-179-6
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2010 05:51
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1607 Social Work > 160702 Counselling, Welfare and Community Services @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9599 Other Cultural Understanding > 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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