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Exploring the Strategies that Latina Students Use to Navigate Work and Family Aspirations: A Case Study of Latina College Students
AuthorGarcia, Rocio R.
AdvisorStewart, Mary W.
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Post-secondary educational institutions have seen an unprecedented increase in the enrollment of women, most significantly within the last four decades. Commonly known as the college gender gap, extensive research has surfaced to address the causes of this rising trend, paying special attention to the condition of White and Black Americans. The shortcomings of this literature lie in the fact that it does not explore the nuances and complexities of the condition of Latinas given the power of the dominant culture in the U.S. Further, the existing research does little to shed light on the implications of gendered school enrollment patterns on other areas of social life, including dating, marriage, and family. Using the literature on the sociology of education and Latino masculinities and femininities while adopting a qualitative approach, interviews of 10 unmarried, Latina students at UNR were performed to examine how they navigate their academic and work goals and their family goals within the context of the college gender gap. Of central importance to this question was examining whether the pursuit of these paths creates a conflict to the extent that a paradox may exist between the societal encouragement for the professional advancements of women and the continuous presence of the cultural ideal of motherhood. The narratives of these women, however, suggest that there is no conflict for them in pursuing their occupational and family goals. Having a successful career and being a successful wife-mother are both fundamentally important for these women in terms of life satisfaction because the balance between the two accords them an elevated status that surpasses being only a professional or only a wife-mother and the stigma that comes from the either-or dichotomy. The researcher suggests that it is the acquisition of both that carries the most value for these women because the balance between professional and wife-mother is the new normative expectation given women's advances in higher education. The relevance of this study lies largely in its focus on an underserved demographic within higher education and it carries implications for contributing to the body of knowledge on issues of racial and gender inequities.