Women Who Continue to Pursue
Motivated not only Despite but also by Concerns about the Future
Becky Wai-Ling Packard, Ph.D.
PACKARD, WINTER, 2002
Like other struggles or problems, concerns
can be seen as a catalyst for change, or a source of motivation
that moves us forward.
The purpose of this paper is to explore how women
pursuing science fields are able to do so despite their concerns
about the future (e.g., difficulty combining family and career,
undesirable work environment). Do these women change their values,
ignore the stereotypes, or manage in some other way? Thirty college
women pursuing science and engineering participated in a semester-long
program where they discussed their concerns with several peers and
female professionals. Quantitative data showed students' concerns
and values remained strong over time. Qualitative data revealed
students became aware that peers and professionals shared their
concerns, and this helped them to feel part of the field. Surprisingly,
they were now motivated not only despite but also by the concerns
that once discouraged them. These results suggest that career programs
can help women to recognize shared concerns, become motivated to
change the field in the ways that concern them, and to reimagine
Many college women have concerns about their future
lives and work, particularly in terms of combining their personal
life and career (Eccles, 1987; Holland & Eisenhart, 1990; McCracken
& Weitzman, 1997; Stage & Maple, 1996). This seems to be
particularly the case for women pursuing natural sciences and engineering
careers (Seymour & Hewitt, 1997; Ware & Lee, 1988). Women
may question the likelihood of having family or making a contribution
to society when pursuing a science-related career (Eccles, 1987;
Holland & Eisenhart, 1990; Seymour & Hewitt, 1997) and they
may expect to work in an isolating, uninviting workplace (Stage
& Maple, 1996). This is predictable because science has, over
time, been defined as a "nerdy, male and White" occupation
(Eisenhart, Finkel, & Marion, 1996) and women are still underrepresented
in the physical sciences and engineering fields (Vetter, 1996).
Even though they may look to female professionals for ideas of how
to successfully meld professional and personal lives (Gilbert &
Rossman, 1992), college women report a lack of role models and mentors
who discount negative stereotypes (Astin & Sax, 1996; Mutha,
Takayama, & ONeil, 1997; Osborn, Ernster, & Martin,
1992; Sonnert & Holton, 1996).
Many women who consider science careers become discouraged
by negative stereotypes and the lack of women professionals makes
it difficult to produce much counter-evidence. One way of conceptualizing
this process is to see negative stereotypes as representing possible
selves that students are motivated to become or avoid (Markus
& Nurius, 1986). Using this perspective, if women have negative
images of science professionals, they may be less motivated to pursue
science careers because they want to avoid becoming these negative
images. However, women who pursue science are also likely to have
positive, desirable images that lead them to pursue the career.
This creates a tension among positive and negative future images,
a tension that may lead some women to doubt whether they can be
the kind of person they would like to be and still become a scientist.
Part of what contributes to the concerns college women have, then,
is their uncertainty that positive possibilities or possible selves
exist, or that they will personally be able to achieve them.
This study aims to examine how these concerns about
the future, and related negative stereotypes, influence women who
do continue to pursue science-related fields. Surely these pursuers
of science too have (had) similar concerns about their future lives
as scientists. How do these women stay in their fields despite their
concerns about the future? Do they change their values (i.e. decide
to give up their personal life)? Ignore the stereotypes? Find a
way to have it all? Eventually leave? In order to study
this, I invited college women who were in the midst of grappling
with these issues and who were discouraged from continuing to pursue
their desired science or engineering field to attend a one-semester
program. In a workshop series/discussion group format, the college
women could discuss their concerns about the future with peers,
graduate students, and professionals. This allowed me the opportunity
to examine the college womens concerns about the future over
time, and how, if at all, their concerns affected their actions
or career decisions.
Thirty college women attending a large midwestern university participated
in the project (see Appendix A for a list
of pseudonyms and information). They ranged in age from 19 to 22;
4 were Sophomores, 13 were Juniors, 13 were Seniors. Eleven students
declared majors in biological-sciences, 5 students in physical-sciences,
6 students in health- or medical-sciences, and 8 students in engineering.
They reported a mean GPA of 3.22 (on a 4.0. scale). The group was
diverse; 9 (30%) students were ethnic minorities and 11 students
(36.7%) were first generation college students.
College student selection. Students majoring in natural science
or engineering received an electronic posting for a future
career concerns program for women that would meet every other
week over the fall semester. I posed these questions: Are
you trying to decide if a science or engineering career is really
for you? and Do you have concerns about your future
career path? (For example, having a personal life or family in the
future, diversity in the workplace, wondering if your work will
make a contribution?). Over 400 women expressed interest in
participating, which illustrated the salience of the issue under
study. (A shortened program was offered to accommodate some additional
students during the second semester.)
The pool was narrowed down based on students abilities to
attend all sessions, intensity and specificity of concerns, and
Sophomore class status or higher. Kaylas application was typical
of the group who participated.
I am interested in the career workshop for women. My name is
Kayla and I am a senior majoring in Physiology. I will graduate
in May and plan to work in biological research, and then attend
medical school. Many of the issues you addressed in your e-mail
are concerns of mine. I plan to get married and have a family
but I am concerned about how everything will be juggled. My desire
for a family conflicts with my desire to be a physician, and many
of the people I have talked to say that I must choose or one or
the other will suffer. I would like to believe that this is not
so, and I hope your workshops would offer some insight.
To make the sessions smaller, two sessions of the program were
offered (a Tuesday session or Wednesday session); 15 women attended
each session throughout the semester. Because the sessions were
identical and the two groups were similar, the results of the two
groups are considered collectively.
Graduate students/professionals recruitment. The graduate students
were recruited via a women-in-science electronic listserv and through
peer recommendations. The female graduate students represented a
range of science- and engineering- fields and lifestyle choices;
most attended the same university while others attended another
nearby large university. Similarly, the women professionals were
recruited by recommendations of colleagues at the university and
letters sent to nearby workplaces. The professionals lived within
an hours drive of the university and represented a range of
fields, degrees, and lifestyle choices; working in academics, hospitals,
or industry, working part-time or from home, with children and without.
There were between six and eight guests per session.
Role model web site. In addition, I created a role model web site
showcasing a variety of science graduates, including men and women
from various fields and of multiple ethnic backgrounds (contact
author for more information). In the web site, 17 role models are
showcased with pictures and share their reflections on their career
choices, about their lives, and their struggles; all were available
Workshop series/Discussion groups. Students met six times over 12
weeks: 1) The first session consisted of peer discussion and exploring
a role model web site; 2) discussion groups with graduate women;
3) career exploration among peers; 4) discussion groups with professional
women; 5) future planning among peers; and 6) social event. In the
second and fourth session, students were in small groups with two
graduate/professional women for approximately 30 minutes, then in
another group with two different graduate/professional women for
another 30 minutes, and then engaged in an open-mixer for the remaining
30 minutes. This arrangement sought to maximize students exposure
to different viewpoints and airtime to discuss their issues.
Data Sources and Analysis
Students completed a pre-post survey using a 6-point Likert-type
scale to assess their agreement with having future career concerns
(1=strongly disagree to 6 =strongly agree). The items included combining
career and personal life, combining career and having children,
working alone, working long hours, competitive work environment,
not feeling similar to others, and lack of role models. Students
also added open-ended comments elaborating their concerns. Follow-up
interviews with 10 students focusing on their experiences of concerns
were transcribed. I also requested an update via e-mail from students
16 weeks after the program was over.
First, I quantitatively compared students pre- and post-surveys
to look for changes in the magnitude of their concerns. Reports
that their concerns increased or stayed the same would suggest they
had not changed their values and continued to be concerned. Reports
that their concerns decreased would suggest they were ignoring stereotypes
or had changed their values. Regardless of the quantitative results,
a closer look at open-ended comments would be warranted. I conducted
a content analysis regarding the nature of their concerns from the
qualitative data sources. That is, I read and re-read their open-ended
survey answers within students from pre-post and looked carefully
for patterns across students (e.g., reduction/increase of concerns,
discouraged by/ignored stereotypes) and analyzed the content of
student interviews in a similar fashion.
In order to discuss how the college women were able to continue
to pursue science careers despite concerns about the future, I will
first provide further context by offering a glimpse of the students
concerns. Then, I will report that the magnitude of the college
womens concerns remained high throughout the 12-week program
suggesting retention of values and concerns. Next, I will shift
my focus to the qualitative data that will illustrate that the college
women recognized shared concerns with peers, graduates, and professionals
and as a result, they began to feel part of the field. Collectively
and individually, they could choose to stay, stake a claim, and
help to reshape the field. Finally, I will show that concerns that
were once discouraging to their pursuit were now serving as a source
A Glimpse of their Concerns
In the first meeting, students sat around a large table and shared
their concerns with everyone in the group. As we went around the
table to share, it was clear that the concerns that brought them
to the program were intense in magnitude. It was also clear that
students had concerns in common with one another, as evidenced by
Lori and Roses exchange.
Lori: My main struggle right now is I dont know if I really
want to be a doctor anymore or what aspect of the medical field
I want to be in. It is sort of like having a mid-life crisis.
The unfortunate thing is because I have no direction. I dont
even want to go to class anymore (tears up). I feel like it is
Rose: I kinda have the same concerns as you (looking at Lori).
I am not sure I want to go into medicine because I am not sure
how much time Im going to have for the rest of my life afterwards.
This exchange illustrates that Rose is speaking not only to the
group, but also directly to Lori, by saying that she has similar
concerns. Students continued to share their concerns as they went
around the table; similar concerns affected natural science and
Genoveva: I dont know if any of you have heard, but engineers
are dull people with stressful lives and no family life, and I
just cant believe thats true.
Georgia: I have a whole bunch of struggles (laugh) but I want
to go to grad school, I want to go into forensics also. One of
my big concerns is that I have a boyfriend. He lives in another
state and I want to be with him but I want to go to graduate school.
I am torn. Where do I go? Do I put this on hold? Or do I put him
Genoveva had an image of what her life might be like as an engineer
and Georgia had a more pending decision to make regarding her graduate
training and boyfriend. Across students, there was an either/or
quality to their concerns. Students perceived that they had to resolve
the future career concerns by making a choice between 1) leaving
the field so they could become who they wanted to become personally,
or 2) by staying and becoming the negative stereotypical images.
The open-ended comments on their pre-surveys were completed just
before this discussion around the table, and for the most part,
echoed the types of concerns and the either/or quality
in their thinking about how to move forward in the face of these
concerns about the future. Although they were interested in pursuing
a science career, they were trying to decide if pursuing the career
would be worth the sacrifices evident in others' lives.
Womens Concerns Remain Strong
Students initial responses on the future career concerns survey
provided a quantitative assessment of their future career concerns.
Their chief future career concerns (see Table
1) were having a family and science career in the future, having
a personal life and science career in the future, and working in
a competitive environment.
In their post-surveys, students still reported high means on the
same items, including combining family and career, personal life
and career, and working in a competitive environment. These high
means indicated remaining concerns in those areas (see Table
1). Paired t-tests were conducted to examine pre-post changes
within participants. The only significant change was that they became
increasingly concerned with working long hours, from pre-intervention
(m=3.96, SD=1.07) to post-intervention (m=4.65; SD=1.09), t (26)=
-3.14, p=. 01. These results suggest that students held onto their
values for family and personal life, and a desirable work environment.
I turn to the open-ended comments pre-post to illustrate how their
perspectives on their concerns changed over time.
Moving Forward Despite Concerns: Finding Possible Selves
The students post-survey comments added insight into how they
changed their perspective of their concerns. For example, Estrella
was representative of the students experiences. As a first
generation college student, she was experiencing a great deal of
self-doubt and did not have a great deal of support from her Hispanic-American
family. She wrote:
Another concern I have is, will I make it? because
although Im just starting my science courses, I feel that
either Ill be pushed down or drop myself. Also,
Ill be the first in my family to pursue a Bachelors Degree,
and go for my Ph.D. My family is not really supportive. (pre-survey)
These feelings of self-doubt and concern about pursuing science
and medicine were even more apparent in our first meeting when she
almost broke down in tears describing her concerns. By the end of
the program, her concerns remained strong, but she now planned to
My concerns have somewhat stayed the same since the beginning
of the semester. One thing that has changed is that I know I want
to stay in science. Remember I was having second thoughts. As
hard as it seems right now to pursue this degree, I feel that
switching my major to business or education, which are other majors
that interest me, may be a way out and I dont
want that. (post-survey, emphasis hers)
In other words, students like Estrella began to see options for
themselves within the sciences, rather than having to leave because
of their concerns. She said in her interview, The graduate
students and the doctors that came in were helpful. I could see
what Im up against and whats expected, what to look
It was clear that their interactions with several individuals who
were part of the science field helped the college women to change
their perspective on their concerns. Corie, a computer science student,
was concerned about a range of issues stemming from being a woman
in a male-dominated field.
Females in computer science are rare. I am worried about competition
and being seen as an equal. I am also worried about balancing
family life in my future, and if I will be able to succeed if
I start a family. (Some companies will not hire if they feel you
wont be dedicated, and feel if you want a family, then you
wont be dedicated.) (pre-survey)
At the end of the program she reported, I have been able
to think about what I want to do with my career, and allowed me
to voice my concerns and have my questions answered [through the
discussions with professionals]. In her interview she elaborated,
There was a couple of computer science people and they
me to be prepared about things that youre going to encounter.
These words of wisdom came from examples of real-life people who
were doing all of the things they wanted, and gave them confidence
it was a real possible for them.
Kate, a talented chemistry student with a 3.9 GPA, further supported
this inclination to move forward despite concerns because of the
good examples set by the professionals they met. She was frustrated
with the lack of role models around her and it made it difficult
for her to imagine a future for herself. Kate contemplated leaving
her field and even school. In the beginning of the semester she
My biggest concerns are the lack of female role models in the
academic environment. Ive never had a female professor here.
I am concerned about the sacrifice of family/personal time a science
career seems to require. (pre-survey)
By the end of the semester, it was clear that the discussions with
professionals helped her to see possibilities for herself.
This program helped me by allowing me to talk with different
women in different areas of science. I was able to see that it
is possible to have a science career and a personal life at the
same time. You always hear that this is possible, but it always
seems like there are so few examples out there. I have decided
that some type of graduate school is in my future; probably dental.
Kate's outlook on life changed a lot since she started the program.
Being a dentist or a chemist became a more realistic possibility
for her after she met women in science who were combining family
Discussions with peers and professionals helped them to identify
strategies and to anticipate and prepare for what they were going
to face. It was through their connection and shared concerns with
peers, graduate students, and professionals that they began to challenge
stereotypical images in the field and began to feel a part of the
Shared Concerns, Values, and Selves: Becoming Part of the Field
The college students recognized that they shared concerns and values
with the women in the field whom they had met (peers, graduates,
and professionals). By virtue of these other people having membership
in the science field at large, they too, could have a place. Josie
wrote in her post-survey, "I feel the need to mention the impression
of my field has taken a new shape since the beginning of the semester.
The field was now seen as a large entity containing pockets of diversity,
rather than one homogenous, unchangeable being. Students had described
their images of the science field as they once saw it. Words such
as genius, cut-throat, competitive,
old white men, and bookworm were used to
describe the predominant images in their environments. There were
other stereotypes too; students in the physical sciences saw most
as lab-confined researchers, most pre-med students saw others as
competitive, and computer science and engineering students perceived
less gender and ethnic diversity and personality.
After meeting several people who were part of the science field,
the college students now saw spaces within the science field where
women with their values and images could exist. Zarah found that
engineering was broader than she thought and that she doesnt
have to go into automotive or steel industries. Robyn
reported that she challenged the images in the field. She said,
Science majors are bookworms with no social life
feel like I fit in but I dont want to. You can have fun and
get good grades too. Kellie, a student in engineering, added
to what Robyn had to say by highlighting that the students
differences can be a source of growth for the field. She said, In
my field there are men with bad communication skills where I could
be helpful to them. Having a social life and good communication
skills could be values of the field in the future.
Their connection to peers helped them to imagine entering the field
with a cohort of similar values and images. Abha shared, My
impressions of my field are vast and confusing at times
fit in well with people in my classes and theyll probably
be the same kind of people I end up working with. Annie similarly
reported, Medicine is very out-for-themselves but its
nice to have a group of girls who want to help you succeed.
This showed that Annies views of the field had changed to
include the peers in the program. As Jill concluded, My field
is what Ive wanted to be part of for as long as I can remember.
Sounds nice to call it my field since Ive just
decided that is really where I should be. These quotes help
to illustrate that these changing views of the field helped them
to see a place for themselves. After they began to see their peers
as future colleagues, the diversity represented by the professionals
they met, and imagined their own contributions, students were more
motivated to move forward. But by seeing themselves as part of a
collective within the field, they also revealed a new perspective:
they were now motivated not only despite their concerns about the
future but also by their concerns. They wanted to create new possibilities
and images for women in the field.
Motivated By Their Concerns: Moving Forward as a Collective
At the end of the semester, the college students were interviewed
about whether their concerns had increased, decreased, or stayed
the same. In addition, as a follow-up probe, they were asked about
whether they saw a relationship or no relationship between their
concerns and their motivation. Recall that initially, students
concerns (e.g., lack of female role models, combining personal life
and career) brought them to the program and were cited as a primary
factor for discouraging their pursuit of science careers. Surprisingly,
they reported that the concerns that once discouraged them now served
to motivate them in positive ways. Estrella explained this different
way of looking at concerns, When I think of this concern I
think negative, but I guess it could be positive. I think some concerns
can be positive. Kayla said, It can go both ways but
its a lot how you think, are you positive or more pessimistic;
its your personality. Missy elaborated this point by
saying, Im always the kind of person who worries a lot,
but I think it motivates me because if I wasnt concerned about
my future I wouldnt be as motivated in school.
Their concerns guided them toward seeking strategies and help from
others. Kate described in her interview, "I think there are
two ways you can handle concerns about the future, you can either
get motivated and seek out help or you can switch your major."
Rather than seeing their experience of concerns as discouraging,
they began to see the concerns as a guide toward gaining support.
It gave purpose to their interactions with science professionals
and drew them deeper into field and could make them more knowledgeable.
Carol described this in her interview:
I definitely think that the more motivated you are, the more
you will be able to seek out answers for your concerns and it
will diminish your concerns. Im worried about this so Im
going to go research it and look into it and that sort of thing.
Being concerned about something tends to motivate me because I
dont like being not "in the know."
These college women began to see themselves as people who were
reshaping the field in new ways, reminding them of womens
important place in the field. They could address the need for more
women role models, women who could offer the positive future images
that they sought. Robyn explained this perspective of viewing these
concerns as a source of fuel to challenge the field and move in
It depends on what kind of spin you put on it. Because if youre
concerned "Im never going to make it", you probably
will not work as hard. But if you are concerned because this person
thinks theyre better than me but theyre not, then
that would make me work harder
I told you this story once
before [about my sorority sister]. This doctor said, Do
you want to go to med school? and she said, No, I
think I want to go to [Physician Assistant] school and he
said, Oh, well that makes sense, there arent very
many pretty girls who go to med school. She was gung-ho
about PA school and now shes going to go to med school.
That person pissed her off so much that shes going to prove
him wrong. Its funny how one person can set you off and
you prove them wrong.
Annie elaborated this point:
I got really, really concerned my sophomore year after I talked
to my advisor [and he discouraged me]. I want to go back to him
after I become a famous forensic pathologist and say He
told me I couldnt do it, now look at me. I think women
in the sciences are different than just women. There are not a
lot of women forensic pathologists-- theres none-- that
motivates me, too.
Both Robyn and Annie describe recognition of the few women in their
fields and reported that many people, even students own advisors,
went so far as to discourage them. Discouragement sways many away
from pursuing science fields, but not so anymore for these students.
Armed with their own talent and interest in the fields, they turned
around their own self-doubt in the face of others doubts and
discouragement. It was not so much a reaction to others as it was
confirmationthat if they themselves did not move forward,
things would never change and there would still be a dearth of female
role models for women in the future.
They did imagine that the situation for women in science was going
to continue to improve. Mostly it would continue to do so if more
women entered these fields. Kayla said:
I think things are going to change a lot for women, I dont
think its always going to be this way, always having to
quit our jobs
I think its changing, more options like
breast-feeding and stuff like that. I think they will be more
accommodating than places are now in understanding that. Women
are obviously a contribution to society and they have to start
making exceptions, so I think its going to work alright,
Im not that worried about it anymore.
Whether based in reality or in lofty optimism, these perspectives
allowed women who were genuinely interested in pursuing science
careers the strength to move forward despite their concerns. And
surprisingly, the concerns themselves served as motivation and reason
to reshape the fields, individually and collectively.
A Postscript: 16 weeks later
Of the 30 students, 21 provided me with an update of their progress.
Four students (Estrella, Jane, Keshia, and Lori) who were particularly
concerned reported that they continued to take courses in their
majors and gained new career-related experiences such as volunteering
with the Red Cross or finding cultural support groups and career
mentors on campus. Ten students (Annie, Carol, Genoveva, Josie,
Kate, LaTisha, Michaela, Robyn, Rose, and Ryan) shared that they
continued the progress they had made throughout the semester. For
example, they stayed in touch with graduates and professionals they
met during the program, saw their advisors and sought connections
with new professionals, and continued to identify professionals
who represented realistic and desirable life options. Seven students
(Abha, Brianna, Ebony, Jill, Kayla, Tiffany and Zarah) reported
that they had taken their first major career-related internships
and or first jobs in the field after graduation. Their actions provided
evidence that their perspectives on managing concerns and commitment
to the field persisted over the school year.
Future career concerns were salient in the lives of college women
when they entered the 12-week program and remained strong in magnitude
at the end. However, they began to see these concerns in a new light;
rather than seeing the presence of concerns as a reason to leave
the field, they now saw their concerns as manageable and as a motivation
to reshape the field in new ways. They could personally contribute
to changing the stereotypical images of scientists. Discussions
with graduate students and professional across various fields helped
them to see their values and concerns were shared with others who
considered themselves to be in the sciences. They began to see their
concerns as on-going tensions managed by professionals across fields
that were, for the most part, happy with their decisions to stay
in the field. As Eisenhart (1995) conceptualized, students were
able to pave new paths by hearing the stories of self
shared by more established members of the field. Meeting others
in their field, and learning about their values and concerns, helped
students to see a place for themselves in their desired fields.
There was evidence that their perspectives on managing concerns
and commitment to the field persisted over the school year. It is
hard to know whether their perspectives will last when they enter
the field without on-going support, but these longitudinal results
This study suggests that not all concerns should be or can be resolved
by women students. Future career concerns may be viewed as on-going
tensions that need to be managed by exploring one's career options
and identifying mentoring and other types of support in one's environment.
Like other struggles or problems, concerns can be seen as a catalyst
for change, or a source of motivation that moves us forward. Gilligan
(1982) discussed the idea that when women experience crisis or struggle,
they also experience growth and development of character. This may
especially be the case in science fields where women must progress
without easily identifiable or accessible role models and take on
a pioneering spirit. Rather than being pushed out of
the field, women want to stake a claim in the field and take more
control in their career decision-making. Womens decisions
to face those who discourage them, and to prove them wrong, represents
a healthy form of psychological reactance (Brehm, 1966; Buboltz,
Woller, & Pepper, 1999), that can energize women to keep toward
their goals. The current study suggests that we may learn more about
resilience from examining the experiences of women who pursue nontraditional
fields. To conceptualize future career concerns as a motivational
fuel complements the efforts to understand ways that outsiders-within
seek to reshape their fields (Collins, 1986) and how women manage
multiple commitments in creative ways to compose their lives (Bateson,
At a practical level, career and mentoring programs can help students
to deal with ambiguity and on-going tensions in the future and to
see their concerns as reasons for action. Whether on career panels,
in focus groups, or through informal advising, professionals can
be encouraged to share their past and current career concerns, struggles,
and paths, making them explicitly transparent and accessible. While
researchers have extensively documented the benefits of modeling
and vicarious learning (Schunk, 1987), programs can try to target
the personal life dimensions that students are most interested in.
Supporting other researchers (e.g., Bird & Didion, 1992), this
study suggests it is critical for students to interact with multiple
role models and mentors who can challenge the stereotypes. This
will also help students to develop an understanding of the trials
of career journeys and promote more realistic multiple role planning
(McCracken & Weitzman, 1997). In addition, programs can help
students to reimagine their futures and see themselves as entering
a field that is currently changing.
There were some limitations of this study. There was not an alternative
program that could act as a control to see how the context itself
influenced the students concerns. Future research could help
to tease apart the relative importance of the mentoring they received
from peers and professionals and the ability to vent their concerns.
For example, programs could offer discussions with peers only; discussions
with live presence of the professionals; or interactions with only
the role model web site. Although the program included students
from different backgrounds, but there was not enough information
to gauge the impact of gender, ethnicity, and class on the magnitude
or management of students' concerns. Future research can explore
the generality and relative intensity of future career concerns
across a range of nontraditional careers, across a larger population
of female students.
Even though the women decided to continue to pursue their desired
fields, this is clearly not an easy life struggle to manage. With
continued efforts, students who are talented and willing to work
hard will be able to envision and become what they desire, regardless
of their desired lifestyle choices. With more women entering a range
of nontraditional fields, we may see more and more diverse images,
or possible selves, across individuals and institutions, and find
ways to provide support for these women and their lives. While we
tend to encourage students to be realistic, there is an important
role for imagining and reimagining the future. Thinking about what
life could be like for women in science can help more women to move
forward because of their concerns, rather than despite their concerns.
With more emphasis on these perspectives, they can strive to create
new images in the field for themselves and women who follow.
Dr. Becky Wailing Packard is an Assistant Professor of Psychology
and Education at Mount Holyoke College. She can be reached via e-mail
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