Women's Views about the Characteristics of the 'Ideal Woman Worker': A Preliminary Study.
Heath, A. (2007). Women’s Views about the Characteristics of the ‘Ideal Woman Worker’: A Preliminary Study. (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/2433
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/2433
The initial reason I undertook this preliminary study was to inform myself and others about the views of women about the expectations of them as 'ideal workers' in paid employment. What resulted was a piece of research focused on women who recently graduated from the School of Education at the University of Waikato. This preliminary study challenged me in many ways. It challenged my existing knowledge, it challenged my beliefs and most of all it challenged me to think about the world of women through very many different sets of eyes.When I began this preliminary study there was very little previous research, which encouraged me greatly. I felt there was a large window of opportunity to present some initial findings about women and their role as 'ideal workers' in paid employment.The literature review investigated scholarly research and the TEC documents, resulting in the establishment of three macro-level elements that assist in creating the 'ideal worker'. Using feminist theory and three feminist critiques I constructed a reformulation of the 'ideal woman worker'.This preliminary study used a qualitative approach. A semi-structured interview technique was used to gather information from 5 participants. The women, aged 25 or over, had recently completed their Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary).The selected findings revealed the experiences and views of the women participants which were presented as four main themes. These were the skill to manage demands between family and work, the capacity to care, the expertise to communicate, and the ability to be flexible.Three themes within the discussion were the gap between the TEC documents and women's views, the dominance of 'woman-ness', and the evidence of political ignorance. One of two main points of interest raised within the discussion was the tension between the New Right ideologies of previous governments, and the 'Third Way' ideologies of our current government. The evidence suggests that the tension between these ideologies is creating a gap between policy documents, in this case the TEC, and the understandings of the female respondents. The other main point of interest was the way women continue to adopt and appear to accept the traditional gender stereotypes. The women respondentsivinvolved in this preliminary study valued the capacity of women to care and nurture in both the private and public sphere. They also appeared to accept that these 'gender specific' attributes were not necessarily valued within the public sphere. In other words, these women accepted the inequalities that are still part of the world of 'paid' work.Recommendations were formulated for future theory, research and practice for those who are interested in pursuing aspects of this preliminary study. The recommendations may assist in moulding, refining and shaping the future of tertiary education, the role that women perform within the public and private sphere, and possibly the 'ideal woman worker' in New Zealand.
The University of Waikato
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