A framework for promoting women's career intentionality and work-life integration.

Author:Tajlili, Megan Hyland

Work-life integration is .a major problem for today's working women, as the demands of fill-time work conflict with the relational factors of family life. Women feel they have to make difficult decisions that sacrifice their career or family, with little understanding of the influences that affect decision making. Career counselors may not be discussing the strain of work--life integration with female college students, leading them to believe "having it all" is attainable. A framework blending the Kaleidoscope Career Model with the Systems Theory Framework to help women understand the environmental, societal, and personal influences on work--life integration is proposed as a solution. This framework allows college women to make decisions with an intentional background of how these systems interact and 'sway perception. Using this framework, career counselors may help students identify goals,. research the benefits and challenges, and clarify their authentic selves in personal and work realms.

Keywords. Kaleidoscope Career Model, Systems Theory Framework, work-life integration, career decision making, college women

Today's college women have witnessed the challenges of work--life integration facing working mothers. These challenges include struggles with child care; balancing career aspirations with family obligations; and taking care of personal needs in the midst of deadlines, diapers, and competing demands. Young college women receive many messages about work--life integration from their mothers and the media that entice them to make different choices than women before them (Cabrera, 2007). These messages include the derision of the 1980s' concept of a "supermom" who "has it all," because many professional women vocalize feeling caught in the web of judgment, inadequacy, and self-doubt in both the familial and professional realms (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005). If a woman wants to take time off to stay at home with her children, she is viewed as a liability because she deemphasizes her job. Conversely, if she immerses herself in her professional pursuits, she is judged a bad mother. Recent media coverage of Marissa Mayer and her pregnancy announcement shortly after being named the CEO of Yahoo! highlights this dilemma (Grouse, 2012). Initially, Mayer was criticized as lacking professional judgment in taking the job at the helm of a failing company in her "delicate" condition, and then she was condemned as a mother when she decided to take only 3 weeks of maternity leave and work throughout it.

Anne-Marie Slaughter (2012) spoke of this double-bind in The Atlantic Monthly article titled "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." Slaughter's article chronicles her challenges in raising two teenage sons in New Jersey with the help of a supportive stay-at-home spouse while she commuted to Washington, DC, for a dream job with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her feelings of insufficiency in both areas as mother and career woman brought about a call to action that puts an onus on changing the rnindset society has about working mothers and creating new, nontraditional ways these women can contribute to the workforce and foster healthy familial bonds.

Although Slaughter's (2012) call to action is timely, the workforce is not changing fast enough to meet the needs of new female college graduates. M. Shapiro, Ingols, and Blake-Beard (2008) identified megatrends affecting the current state of employment in the world today and the challenges they pose for working women. Despite the transformations in corporate America, including downsizing, off-shoring, and outsourcing, many organizations continue to operate within the "work is primary" career model that dictates that an individual spends time and energy working for one company throughout the course of adulthood (M. Shapiro etal., 2008). Now that companies often are no longer caring for their employees past retirement through pensions and extended health insurance, employees are seeking out alternative employment arrangements, including entrepreneurial pursuits, temporary employment opportunities, and startup companies. There is a distinct conflict between what companies are expecting of their employees and what employees are aspiring to in work--life integration (M. Shapiro et al., 2008). A shift has occurred in work and family values that now places a priority on life outside of the office, coupled with new technology that allows employees to work from anywhere in the world. Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! highlights this double-bind perfectly with her recent decision to terminate employees' ability to work remotely for the company, stipulating that they have 5 months to return to the office environment or they can find other employment (Carlson, 2013).

The original concept of work--life balance proposed in the beginning of the 21st century (O'Neil, Hopkins, & Bilimoria, 2008) has been eschewed in favor of the term work--life integration (Slaughter, 2012) because professional working mothers find that balance is an unachievable ideal in today's fast-paced world. Balance becomes another measure of success in professional work and motherhood, eating away at the confidence of women already plagued by feeling the perils of mommy guilt, pushing through the glass ceiling, and achieving life meaning concurrently (M. Shapiro et al., 2008). Because of the ways women relate to their careers on a personal level, career counselors must take a more intimate role and focus holistically on the person (Patton &. McMahon, 2006; Rees, Luzzo, Gridley, & Doyle, 2007).

Essentially, work--life integration discussions must begin earlier. Traditional-age college women, defined as female students who enter higher education for the first time at age 24 or younger (D. Shapiro et al., 2012), often first seek counseling about their postcollegiate career options in the university career counseling center. Career counselors in the college setting have a unique opportunity to discuss the intersection of work--life integration at the beginning of traditional-age college women's careers, helping them highlight their goals and challenges in incorporating a meaningful personal and professional life. Yet, with the constant research reports chronicling the continuing struggles of women's work--life integration, it appears that the next generation of professionals is not receiving sufficient guidance in this area (Perrone, Webb, & Jackson, 2007; Whitmarsh, Brown, Cooper, Hawkins-Rodgers, & Wentworth, 2007). If one looks at the environmental constructs, shifts, and trends in career decision making for women, as well as in career counseling, the question arises: How do career counselors adequately prepare college women for the opportunities and challenges they will face in their careers?

Integration of Models

With the work-life integration debate remaining at the forefront of women's career development, counseling interventions need to begin earlier in the life cycle of traditional-age college women to focus on their career decision making so they can be intentional in their choices and not risk missing opportunities in an effort to create a meaningful life plan. This can be accomplished by blending the Kaleidoscope Career Model (KCM; Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005) with the Systems Theory Framework (SIT) of career development (Patton & McMahon, 1999) to enact an intentional road map for traditional-age college women and help them learn the tools to negotiate the bind of work-life integration. These two models specifically focus on career development as being one part of creating a fulfilling life. Additionally, they work to integrate household demands with career priorities in a holistic sense. The KCM focuses on the ideas of authenticity, balance, and challenge that are important in creating an integrated lifestyle, whereas the STF focuses on the relational and contextual nature of women's careers.


The KCM seeks to explain the key differences between men's and women's careers (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005). The key concepts behind the KCM--authenticity, balance, and challenge--interact to affect decision making and create the key priorities throughout a woman's career. As the kaleidoscope suggests, one of these three parameters comes into focus during a woman's career to act as a guidepost for where she will focus her energy for that period of time. Although the other two parameters remain out of immediate focus, they are still active parts of the pattern, influencing the overall design. As the circumstances of the woman's life change or her priorities shift, another parameter will take over, forming a new pattern. Each concept has its own definition, with different goals for success.

Authenticity refers to the desire for women to retain their identity and individuality despite competing demands and job descriptions (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005). Authenticity also describes a woman knowing her strengths and limitations and her ability to make decisions regarding the information she has on hand at the...

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