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Women’s work orientations: A study of young women without dependent children

This article explores women’s work orientations, and how these vary between social classes. Empirically it focuses on women who do not (yet) have dependent children. The first part of the article reviews debates about women’s work orientations, including the extent to which women’s labour market behaviour is shaped purely by individual preferences or structural constraints. It then examines the factors that influence the development and expression of work orientations. The second part of the article explores the work orientations of 20 young white women aged 20-30, living in the city of Oxford in the UK. Analysis of in-depth interviews with these young women indicate a range of attitudes towards paid work, which varied between social classes. While women in professional/managerial occupations were more likely to value intellectual stimulation and the intrinsic nature of the work they did, women in routine/manual occupations emphasised the importance of financial reward, routine and social interaction.