The Occupational Studies
The general review of women's achievements and prospects in high level careers in Part Two, filled out from specifically British studies in Part Three, suggests a situation something as follows. It is not necessary today to ask in a country like Britain, any more than in Eastern Europe, whether women with the high qualifications relevant to a professional or managerial career are likely to use them. In the West as in the East, such women do now normally work not only up to but after their child-bearing years, and on towards retirement. Within this pattern individuals still differ in both the quantity and the quality of their work commitment. A woman who works through most of her life does not necessarily do so out of any strong sense of commitment to a career or of career development. Conversely, a woman with a strong career commitment may nevertheless interrupt her career. Differences like these can extend to whole professional groups. Doctors, for example, tend everywhere to work relatively continuously and to show a particularly strong career commitment. Women also still tend, even in Eastern Europe, to work on the average for a smaller proportion of their total potential career period than men. These differences are important, and need to be borne in mind when considering the career prospects and value to an employer of women as individuals or in particular professions. But the background to the handling of these individual and particular cases is that today it is nearer the truth to assume that a highly qualified woman will remain, like a man, a life-time worker than that she will retire into the role of a permanent housewife.
Nor is it today necessary to argue whether women are able or willing to acquire qualifications at graduate and professional level, although here again there are distinctions to be made. Girls in Britain remain somewhat less likely than boys to persist to the end of a course of full-time higher education, and much less likely to persist to the end of part-time courses. Women are less likely than men to go on to postgraduate qualifications. In Western countries women