What women want

By on November 7, 2007

Since the 1960’s, American college educated women have decided they can have it all: a successful career, thriving marriage, and a happy family life.

Professor of psychology and head of the Women Studies Department at Quinnipiac University, Michele Hoffnung, presented her research on this topic in a seminar titled “Women Who Want It All: Progress Report of Women’s Lives from College into Their 30’s” on Oct. 25.

The presentation was the second in a series of seminars hosted by the Quinnipiac Chapter of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.

Hoffnung’s study began in 1993 as she interviewed a group of senior female students concerning their plans for the future. They all expressed their ambitions to have a thriving career and the majority of them also wanted a home life.

Her research is a retrospective study, as she followed the lives of these women from their senior year in college until their late 30’s, specifically tracing the impact of motherhood on their lives and careers.

Hoffnung began her lecture describing the goals of Jane, a Quinnipiac female senior in 1993. The student was a psychology major and had every intention of excelling in her career before marrying and starting a family.

One of the student’s male professors predicted that by the time the girl was 30, she would be married.

When Hoffnung contacted her former student the student was 29 years old, she held two masters degrees and was still single. By the time this student was 35; she was married, had two children and did not have any plans to alter her career. This woman had managed to have it all.

This particular case where the woman was able to have it all by the time she was 35, accounted for one-third of the participants in Hoffnung’s study. Out of the sample of women who were working, 50 percent worked full time and also had children, while 35 percent of the women working full time were yet to have children.

The lecture touched upon the common belief that a woman must choose between having a family or a career. This is no longer the case, as women today are finding that having it all is absolutely possible, especially if their definition for having it all includes having it all during their lifetime.

Visiting professor of public relations at Quinnipiac, Jennifer Bernheim owns her own Public Relations Firm and teaches four courses.

Bernheim has been married for a year and a half and plans to start a family soon along with getting her PHD and starting a Non-profit organization for business women who would like to give to their community through monetary donations called “Women With Visions”.

Bernheim is a complete example of a woman doing it all and she has prepared herself for the challenge of becoming a working mom.

“I have been considering my options as a working mother and if I have multiple children, up to three, I may put my career on hold. At that point in my life having it all may be being with my children. I know that often times the unexpected happens, but I would think that I would go back to work when my family is older.” said Bernheim.

Seal’s plans for motherhood, though in the more distant future, are similar to Bernheim’s.

“The reason I want to own my own practice is so that I will have that flexibility to be involved in my children’s lives. Though I know plans don’t always work out perfectly, this is what I want and working hard is good for you in the end,” Seal said.

Hoffnung found that there are several similar factors in the women who ‘have it all.’

The first factor is career commitment. Career commitment includes a focus of knowing what they want to do and wanting it to be meaningful.

The second factor is having satisfactory childcare which includes a supportive marriage partner, daycare, nannies, or help from family members.

The third factor is work flexibility.

Hoffnung believes the ambition and ability women have in wanting and achieving it all will result in new societal findings. She feels that work will continue to become much more important to women as they will essentially be working all of their lives after they finish their education.

She also believes that women shouldn’t worry that they will be unable to have children or the number of children they want when they do succeed in their careers.

Bernheim’s advice for graduating female seniors is, “Set your goals as high as you want. What is important is to be flexible with the timing around your goals and to always do what will make you happy,” she said.


About Lisa Gomez