Feminism didn’t invent the career woman, yet moving into the 1980s it is surprising that the term didn’t become enriched with more positive indications that the status of women in the workplace was changing or that women’s rights were increasingly protected by feminist-informed social policies. Sadly, the clear tension between the two words — after all, one doesn’t talk about career men — said it all. Women with careers would continue to be seen as oddities, and by the late 1980s they were often portrayed as selfishly putting their own needs before that of their family. There would be no straightforward way for women to gain access to the top of their professions without the perception that their success had cost them dear in personal terms. Thinking back to Helen Gurley Brown and her manifesto for the working woman in Sex and the Single Girl in addition to the emergence of career-oriented women in more significant numbers after the Second World War, it is clear that the career woman is a product of women’s increased access to education, a buoyant post-war economy, and a changing ideology of femininity, not to mention less consensus about what is or isn’t expected of women.
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