Placement and Career Planning at Barnard, October 1971

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Placement and Career Planning at Barnard

The tremendous changes which have occurred for women over the past five years have posed a challenge for those in placement and career planning. Fundaen- tal questions are being raised about the needs, capabilities, and life styles of American women. Vocational horizons are broadening. Yet the very breadth of these new horizons is itself frightening for many young women who are not ready to shed their traditional roles and embark on independent careers. We have been forced to rethink pur program and to find new ways to help our

young women take themselves seriously, encourage them to pursue their interests in a purposeful way, see that they are exposed to full information about fields and opportunities, and finally help them implement their plans for their future.

The heart of our progra is indixidual career counseling. We explore with a student or alumna her interests and needs and help her make long- term vocational plans. We are keenly aware that many of our young women have little confidence about the untried, have hesitations about venturing into areas which they are not sure are open to women, and often have difficulty in recognizing and dealing with discrimination. We understand how necessary it is for us to help push back the barriers, to offer encouragement, and to suggest the possibilities of new career choices. Where we used to be sym- pathetic we now sometimes see the need to question, perhaps even to serve as a goad; thus to a brilliant senior who wanted to shelve her plans for graduate study to support her husband who has just received a fellowship, we asked, "shouldn't she at least consider herself too?" To another senior who expressed interest in a management training position in business we asked whether she thought it valid to refuse to accept traveling responsibilities. On the other hand it is often necessary to be particularly supportive, eggs to a studeflfi. who wanted to be an architect but who was hesitant because a dean of admissions of a graduate school in architecture questioned her motivation and an uncle in the field told her women are never given good jobs,

About one half of our career counseling interviews are with alumnae, one- third of whom have been out of college five years or more. Alumnae turn to us for many different kinds of help, ranging from getting a promotion which is long overdue, to finding a part-time job with a fresh PhD in physics, to con- verting valuable volunteer community experience into a good, paid jobs The tales of bitter frustration we hear from a growing number of our more recent alumnae trapped in dead-end jobs, are indicative of the rising consciousness of women and point up the need for specific help in finding suitable jobs and understanding the new rights and legal responsibilities of women.

Assuming a responsibility to alumnae throughout their lives and under- standing the discontinuities in woen's lives has meant that an important part of our counseling interviews are with women seeking to return to work or to prepare for a career after raising a family. These women need a special kind of counseling, since many of them return with either unrealistic illusions or else an equally se1f—defeating lack of confidence. They require patient enw couragement and help in preparing for what is possible. It is gratifying after several counseling interviews to see how many are able to find satisfying jobs or to enroll in a demanding graduate or professional degree program.

In order to encourage students and alumnae to take advantage of the new opportunities, we have come to place great emphasis on a number of other acti~ vities and resources. In addition to the usual vocational meetings on specific

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fields with outside speakers, we have initiated a variety of small informal meetings, which deal with some vocational issue in such a way as to heighten student consciousness of their role as women. We have learned how important it is to have women speakers, particularly women who are opening new doors for other women and who can talk honestly about the problems of change. We lean heavily on alumnae and young women faculty members as well as members

of women‘s associations in graduate and professional schools. We have found that the sharing of experiences between different age groups can create a climate condusive to honest dialogue that can be far more important than the presence of eminent or acknowledged authorities. Here we have sometimes found that our young women even react negatively to women who unquestioningly pride themselves on having achieved success by "being twice as good as a man.”

Recognizing that one of the main stumbling blocks for young women is confusion about themselves as women led us to initiate several series of small and continuing group meetings for undergraduates beginning well before the senior year. In this way students have a chance to share their vocational concerns and expectations and raise questions about the pressures and ambi~ valences they feel as women. It was gratifying to find that after a few meetings many were able to see that their confusions about their role as women were often blocking them from making appropriate career plans.

We have set up a vocational library which speaks to the needs of today's women. It includes good, up-to-date vocational material with particular emphasis on descriptive information on fields where women have not been represented. We have a full collection of graduate and professional school catalogues as well as newsletters and fact sheets of professional women's groups and women's caucuses of professional organizations. We have added subscriptions to a few new feminist newsletters as well as current news articles describing the broadening of horizons for women in many fields. In addition, we have included material on many of the important economic, social, and legal changes affecting women.

We are careful not to use recruitment literature or accept job listings which are directly or indirectly discriminatory. When we receive such material, we write to employers explaining why we cannot use their literature or accept their job orders and ask that they withdraw the recruiting literature from general circulation and prepare new acceptable career material. We also suggest that employers list all their permanent jobs for liberal arts graduates not just their secretarial and other low level jobs traditionally reserved for women.

We have been fortunate in being able to attract to our professional staff highly gifted and sensitive young women, committed to effecting fundamental changes for women. Often recent graduate students themselves, they have been able to share the concerns and experiences of our students in an immediate way. Although they generally stay with us for only two or three years before going on for further training or higher responsibilities, they make unique contri- butions to our values and our style of work. In addition each year we provide field work experience for at least one graduate student in the Student Person- nel Program in Higher Education at Teachers‘ College.

We realize that it is important to take an aggressive position about tracking down good job openings and training programs for our graduates. In doing this we use all of our ingenuity. In addition we seek out employers in

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fields where we find strong student or alumnae interest and initiate contacts to get a broader range of opportunities. In one instance we wrote to several hundred law firms asking if they had openings for college graduates as legal assistants and were rewarded with a good sprinkling of jobs.

We have developed close ties with alumnae in important jobs in business and the professions and have found that this has brought in more good job listings as well as yielding invaluable contacts for students and alumnae who are seeking specific information about a field, We are convinced of the necessity and value of developing many more such contacts so that women will be able to give each other the kind of informal help that men have long been doing moving up the professional ladder, through their alumni clubs, professional, and social organizations.

Finally we see the important need for more research on the vocational development of women, an area of research virtually neglected until recently. Towards these ends we have carried out several small research projects, which include:

Medicine as a Vocational Choice among Undergraduate Women, by Jane Schwartz. Journal of the National Association of Women Deans and Counselors, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Fall 1969).

Aspiration and Sex Role Expectations of Barnard Seniors, by Jane Schwartz Gould, (mimeo) January 1970.

The Class of 1965: Achievements and Aspirations, by Jane Schwartz Gould and Abby Gilmore Pagano. Barnard Alumngg. Summer 1971.

Jane S. Gould Director of Placement and Career Planning

October, 1971