Emerging adult women are actively engaged in career and family explorations, amidst changing opportunities and constraints. The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether such women felt they could balance a high-achieving career and a family life, or what has become known in the popular discourse as women “having it all.”
This qualitative study utilized focus groups to explore subjective perceptions of balancing career and family held by emerging adult women. The sample (n=69) comprised female university students in a large Canadian metropolitan area.
Thematic analyses unearthed six distinct yet overlapping positions on the possibility of balancing career and family: Optimism (“I can have it all.”), Pessimism (“I cannot have it all.”), Uncertainty (“I am not sure I can have it all.”), Choice (“I don’t want to have it all.”), Pragmatism (“This is what I need to do to have it all.”) and Support (“Will I access the support necessary to have it all?”).
Limitations include the potential of focus groups to elicit group polarization and to lead participants to censor opinions to conform to conversations. Still, the study reveals more nuanced positions held by women than reported earlier.
The study extends prior research by revealing the range of positions held by women toward career and family, highlighting women’s understanding of the complex issues involved and showcasing their awareness of the crucial role of social support.
This study was funded by two Minor Research Grants (to the first and second authors) and a Junior Faculty Grant (to the first author) from the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies at York University, Toronto, Canada. A previous version of this manuscript was presented at the 2016 Eastern Academy of Management Conference (New Haven, CT). The authors are grateful to Maryam Aryafar and Victoria Jelicic for their able assistance, and to this journal’s editor and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback.
Ezzedeen, S., Budworth, M. and Baker, S. (2018), "Can I have it all? Emerging adult women’s positions on balancing career and family", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 37 No. 6, pp. 566-581. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-06-2017-0138Download as .RIS
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