Role Of Sociocultural Factors, Intersectionality And Agency In Determining Occupational Choices
Author: Hisham Abbasi


This study explores the role of sociocultural factors, intersectionality, and agency in determining occupational choices for women using a qualitative research strategy and an explanatory research design. The conceptual framework used in the study is Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of Field and Habitus. The data was collected through semi-structured interviews from working women in the fields of Aviation, Engineering and Architecture, both in the field and the academics. Thematic analysis was carried out on the data to derive themes and sub-themes. Findings of the study suggest that sociocultural factors including family support, established precedence and patriarchal norms and traditions play a significant role in shaping the occupational prospects of women. Patriarchal norms create hurdles such as gendered notions of occupations, preconceived notion of women’s primary role as homemakers, traditional expectations of female modesty, inherent gender bias regarding their capabilities, and misperception of an unsafe choice for women. The findings suggest that for unmarried women, and married women with spouse support and no children, intersectionality of their marital status and expected family role positively impacts their occupational choices and enables them to pursue their career aspirations. On the contrary, for married women with children, the intersectionality of their marital status, motherhood status, spouse support and expected family role affected their occupational choices in two ways; either they had to take a break from their career, or they had to switch their occupations. The findings suggest a strong linkage between family support and agency. Although women’s agency played an important role in overcoming and resisting the sociocultural hurdles, without the presence of this support, their agency regressed, and their career choices were compromised. Therefore, women’s agency is significantly influenced by other sociocultural factors, spouse support, motherhood status and expected family role. The primary motivation for women employing their agency was the fulfillment of their career aspirations and inner-satisfaction. Women who do not conform with the traditional sociocultural cultural expectations, family values and norms are often subjected to labelling. Based on the research findings, the study recommends STEM friendly curriculum reform, career counselling programs, grants and scholarships, collaboration initiatives between educational institutes, government and private organizations, mentorship programs, female teachers’ quota, gender sensitization and awareness campaigns.

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Keywords : Agency, Intersectionality, Occupational Choices, Sociocultural Factors Working Women
Supervisor: Fizzah Khalid Butt

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