A UC Irvine professor is conducting a survey of middle-aged women designed to measure why and how they make professional and personal decisions.
"We are trying to explore how they feel about their choices and how they cope," said Roxane Cohen Silver, associate professor in UCI's School of Social Ecology. "We are looking at the reasons behind these decisions."
A study focusing on the topic was completed in the 1970s at UC Berkeley, where a small group of women were asked specific questions about their life choices, Silver said.
"The trajectory has changed dramatically in the last few years," she said. "The choices that were made in the '70s are different from the decisions that are being made in the '90s."
Silver said her study will test the truth of the media "stereotype" that women in the 1990s are lowering their expectations and focusing less on "having it all." The perception is often repeated even though there is little hard data to back it up, she said.
Silver decided to undertake the study after completing a similar survey last year of more than 500 college-age women in Canada.
That survey found that many young women have lofty goals of achieving extraordinary professional success while still having time to raise children and support relationships.
"They wanted everything," Silver said. "I looked around at my friends and colleagues, and they haven't managed to achieve what these young women wanted."
By interviewing women between the ages of 35 and 50, Silver said she hopes to determine whether women's goals change as they grow older and if "real life" comes as a disappointment to them.
Silver is encouraging several hundred women to take part in the survey, which is being conducted over the next few weeks. "We want working women, mothers, women trying to do both, women in school. We would like a nice cross-section," she said.
The surveys are anonymous and confidential. They are mailed to participants, who complete them and send them back to UCI. The survey takes anywhere from one to two hours to finish.
For more information about participating, call (714) 856-6849 or (800) 359-3694.