Social Scientist. v 4, no. 43 (Feb 1976) p. 41.


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Reports

Room at the Top: Contingencies in the Voluntary Career

Arlene Kaplan Daniels

THIS REPORT examines the road to success for women in two types of volunteer activities. The first group are philanthropically-inclined women important in a Pacific Coast City whom I call the Community Leaders. The second are leaders in a national organization working for feminist causes that I have called Equality for Women (EFW^I. The two groups are similar in their acceptance of traditional life styles (marriage, raising children, and adapting their interests to the needs of the family). They are similar also in that they come gradually to the notion that they should have a career. And they are similar in finding that their volunteer activity gives direction or encouragement to such aspirations. The two groups differ in what they believe a career should entail and what causes are worth such commitment. In this report I compare the background and recruitment patterns exhibited by each group, and the pathways to the success which encourages or rewards commitment within each group.

Both groups were part of a larger exploratory study involving two other volunteer worlds as well: "Volunteerism in the Lives of Women" (NIMH grant No MH 26294). In each sample 20 women were interviewed during 1973-74 by means of a systematic, open-ended schedule. Interviews lasted from one to four hours. In addition, observations of Community Leaders were collected through attendance at charitable events and organizational meetings open to the public; a few observations were also collected at less formal luncheons and dinner parties. Observations of the EFW involved attendance at state and national board meetings and conventions; again additional observations were obtained through participation in informal get togethers. In total, there were about 100 hours of observations in the Community Leader group and 160 hours in the EFW group.

Any serious volunteer career for a woman requires resources in time and money; financial independence through inheritance or career, or a husband^s generosity and his career may provide these resources. These background characteristics assure the means and the motivation and general preparation to leave home for varying periods, even while children



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