What social factors affect the choice of careers for women?

Written by noreen wainwright
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What social factors affect the choice of careers for women?
Women's work in wartime Britain is an example of the effects of social factors. (rural England image by Alistair Dick from Fotolia.com)

The influence of social factors on women's career choices changes over time. It is impossible to separate social factors completely from other factors. Culture, economics, education and family expectations are all woven into a woman's career choices. Historically, it is possibly easier to see how changes in society impacted upon women's roles at work. An example of this is the drastic change in women's work in Britain during WW2. It became not only acceptable, but commendable for women to leave the traditional sphere of domestic work and step into factories, and carry out farm and driving work.

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Role Models

According to Angela De Santis, an academic with the Veterans' Administration Medical Center, even though studies show that women's career choices are influenced by their role models it is not easy to see exactly where the role model fits into the ultimate decision. The first role models are usually the parents, and some women do follow in their mother's footsteps. However, it could be seen to sometimes work in reverse, as many of the daughters of women who stayed at home have forged careers for themselves.

A girl's first role model is often her mother
A girl's first role model is often her mother (mother and daughter image by goce risteski from Fotolia.com)

Peer Group

A girl's peer group appears to be an important influence, particularly on attitude towards education. If the group of friends, and the ethos of the school are focused on hard work, this makes it easier for a girl to work hard and achieve educational success. Education is one of the main influences on career choice.


Key events in a girl's life often appear to influence career choice. A prolonged period of illness, for example, might mean that a girl spends a lot of time in the company of nurses and doctors at a formative time in her life. This can lead to a fascination with the work they do, and can make the child want to become a nurse or doctor when she grows up.


One of the key factors that influences a girl's career choice is opportunity, and this is closely tied to social class and the economic circumstances of her parents. Here family, culture, economic and social factors all combine to play a part in a girl's aspirations. It is possible to be different, to be the first in the family to go to university, or enter a profession, but difficult obstacles will have to be overcome at every stage.

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