New Femininities: Young Women, Education & Employment

Exploring the Changing Landscape and Empowering Young Women in Education and the Workplace

Abstract: It is commonly argued that young women in Australia today have reached equal status with their male peers, particularly in the education realm. Representations of women’s equality in the mainstream media is summarised in images of ‘can-do’ ‘top girls’ with high levels of education and successful careers.

However, despite the apparent educational success of young women, the labour market and workplace remain remarkably impervious to change along gender lines. The aim of this research is to explore young women’s experiences of the education and labour systems in terms of how social conditions affect young women’s identities and understandings of gender inequality within a post-feminist framework.

This thesis addresses these developments through a feminist analysis of the structural and subjective contradictions in young women’s discourse and everyday practices. The thesis borrows conceptually from the field of sociology of youth, particularly the ideas of individualisation and social generations to understand young women’s lives. This is a mixed-methods research project using surveys and semi-structured interviews with young women in their early and mid-twenties.

The data presented in this thesis demonstrates how gender is experienced, enacted and embodied in the lives of young women, frequently in ways that are competing and contradictory. It explores the complications of subject formation and what it means to be a ‘young woman’ in neoliberal, post-feminist, late modern times.

Thesis supervisors: Professor Johanna Wyn and Dr Hernan Cuervo

Institution at which thesis was completed: University of Melbourne


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