The Nature of Women’s Career Development : Determinants and Consequences of Career Patterns

Abstract: Existing career theories are largely based on a stable working environment and have focused excessively on men and single work roles. In the postindustrial era, however, women’s careers, characterized by the constant negotiation of multiple roles and more frequent job changes, have had implications on the changing nature of careers. The general purpose of this thesis is to increase knowledge about the process of career development of women. The focus is on two aspects: Life Career (characterized by multiple role constellations over the life course) and Occupational Career (characterized by different shapes of occupational movement over the life course). Three sets of questions addressed these two aspects of career: trajectory patterns, interrelationships, and antecedents and consequences. Career biographies covered ages 16 to 43. Antecedents reflecting individual agency (e.g., life role value, aspiration, and early experiences) were investigated. The impact of family context on occupational choice was also examined. Among the consequences examined were midlife work wellness and stress, health, and wellbeing.Results showed that (1) Career patterns were highly diverse, including nine distinct life career patterns and ten occupational career patterns. (2) Occupational and life careers were significantly related, indicating that the paid work career is embedded in the overall life role structure throughout the life course. (3) Individual agency factors predicted life career. Occupational career was related to life career more than family context. (4) Occupational career did matter in work wellbeing. In terms of stress, health, and wellbeing at midlife, there was little difference among life career patterns, but more significant differences among occupational career patterns. The thesis indicates career theory can benefit from taking multiple roles and career development into account. Implications for career counseling, social policy, and organizations are discussed.