`I think it’s more of a worthwhile job I’ve got now.’ A qualitative study of women’s changing work orientations over the life course

`I think it’s more of a worthwhile job I’ve got now.’ A qualitative study of women’s changing work orientations over the life course

2017
Journal

This paper contributes to a body of work which examines how women’s work orientations and evaluations of their paid work change over the life course. We analysed interview transcripts for a sub-sample of 110 women drawn from the National Child Development Study (1958 British birth cohort). The paper focuses on retrospective evaluations of the working lives of women who entered the labour market with an instrumental work orientation from the vantage point of mid-late life. Our findings indicate that some women found more intrinsically satisfying paid work later in their working lives, in some cases after gaining additional qualifications. Women also identified barriers to attempting shifts in work orientations. The results show the dynamism of women’s labour market trajectories in late mid-life and highlight the interest of studying women’s changing work orientations throughout the life course.

Patterns of female labour market participation over the life course are an important way in which women “do gender” (Levy et al. 2006; West and Zimmerman 1987). Contrasted with the ideal type of constant and ascending male careers, women’s careers are often characterized by interruptions and part-time working. The nature of women’s paid work activities depends on institutional structures, local employment markets, women’s employment/family life stage, and negotiations between their own and partner’s preferences. Discussions over the causes of women’s distinct patterns of engagement in the labour market have tended to debate the importance of women’s agency in the face of structural constraints (Hakim 1991; McRae 2003). Yet little is known about women’s perspectives on their own career choices and trajectories. Therefore, this study utilizes women’s retrospective accounts, from the vantage point of late mid-life, of their labour market engagement and their orientation to paid work.
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Platts, L. G., Day, J. K., Gross, D., Madero-Cabib, I., & von Ow, A. (2017). ‘I think it’s more of a worthwhile job I’ve got now.’ A qualitative study of women’s changing work orientations over the life course. Open Science Framework. http://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/Y5AMU