UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Women’s career choices and development at the transition point of university graduation Post, Angela Solveiga


The purpose of this study was to examine the career decision-making process of women at the transitional stage of university graduation. Data was collected from 21 participants involved in one of six different focus groups. There was a range of two to six participants in each group. The themes describing the process of women's career development at the point of graduation transition included; 1. A developmental process. 2. Optimism, 3. Present-day versus historical influence of gender, and 4. The importance of values. The developmental process of career decision-making was demonstrated through differences in past, present, and future influences such as the importance of immediate and extended family members for past influences and the consideration of current or future partners and/or children as future influences. The developmental process was also displayed through differences in decision-making in areas such as the initial selection of a Bachelor of Arts degree compared with the process of excluding past occupational goals. Optimism was demonstrated through; a.) The perception of high self-confidence relating to participants' ability to attain career success, b.) A sense of greatly improved career choices and options compared with their mothers' options, c.) The number and breadth of career possibilities that were named across participants, d.) Using metaphors that demonstrate ideas such as freedom, optimism, opportunities, and a focus on the future, and e.) The perception that few compromises had been made in the past. Gender influence was considered and participants noted that compared with their mothers they benefited through; a.) More opportunities and choices in comparison with mother, both in education and occupations, and b.) Changes in societies' values and gender expectations in comparison with mother's experience. More than half of the participants thought that their gender did not influence their own career directions. Values were shown to be a strong guiding force in the career decision-making process relating to past, present, and future factors. Of all the influences mentioned, values represented 37 percent of past factors, 57 percent of present factors, and 60 percent of future factors. Values were also an important part of participants' definitions of career success. Five theories were considered for their applicability to the findings and to women's career development. These included Gottfredson's (1981) theory of circumscription and compromise, Hackett and Betz' (1981) theory of self-efficacy, Astin's (1984) sociopsychological model of career choice and behaviour, Valian's (1999) theory of women's advancement, and Patton and McMahon's (1999) systems framework. Counsellors, educators, and others working with women in higher education who are making career decisions may find it encouraging to note the general sense of optimism and a broadening of the perceived structure of opportunity for women in this study. According to the results of the present study, it would be beneficial for those working with women in higher education to consider developmental factors, such as the influences of family and future partners, as well as to assist students in crystallizing their values. Areas of future research include extending the inquiry to other groups of women as well as to men to compare the similarities and differences. Future research may also utilize an adaptation of the focus group format as an intervention designed to assist graduating students clarify their career goals.

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