Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

David Cotter




women, opt, careers, career, demanding


Over the past decade, approximately 50 percent of medical school and law school graduates have been women, yet the statistics for practicing female physicians and attorneys are significantly less. This study aims to predict the subset of women who will “opt out” of demanding careers (medicine, law, business management, academia, and engineering). While there is already research to suggest that successful career women leave their jobs due to the unexpected pressures of motherhood, this research adds a new dimension to the opt-out phenomenon by investigating whether expectations about opting out can be predicted based on an analysis of women’s initial career motivations and influences. Union College women planning on pursuing demanding careers were surveyed. They were asked about what motivated them to select such careers, their attitudes about women who opt out, their level of planning with regard to their futures, and whether they foresee themselves opting out should they become mothers. Correlations were then made between women’s motivations and opt-out likelihood to determine if “opting out” women are a predictable subgroup based on their motivating factors. Motivations relating to familial role models, a desire for independence and self-sufficiency, and a desire for a high income were all related to a woman’s level of career commitment. A woman’s specific occupational choice and her attitudes about opt-out women were also linked to opt-out likelihood. More generally, it was found that college women pursuing demanding careers are uncertain about their futures and they are unprepared for the challenges of work-life balance.