It is over twenty years since scholars began to question the adequacy of the extant career theory for illuminating women’s lives. Since then the literature has developed apace. This book contributes to these on-going debates.
This book is about women’s careers, how they think about and enact their working lives, and how these patterns change, or stay the same, over time. It focuses on seventeen women, based in the same northern English city, working in a variety of occupations, who left their organizational positions to set up their own businesses.
In the early 90s they participated in a research study of this career transition, and a decade and a half later were interviewed for a second time. Imagining Women’s Careers is based on these accounts. It investigates the women’s transition to self-employment and on-going career development; contextual change between the two periods and why, in career terms, this mattered; their experiences of late career and retirement; and the role of others in their career-making. The concept of the career imagination is introduced, defining and delimiting what is possible, legitimate and appropriate in career terms, and prescribing its own criteria for success.
In part, the book is about change: women moving from young to middle, or middle to old age; society moving out of and back into recession; an academic literature which has deconstructed and redefined the concept of career itself. However it is also about continuity: enduring relationships, commitments to people and places, deeply held values and identities.