I started thinking about the uncertainties of planning a career path particular to LDS women a few years ago when I noticed there were seldom many women in my business classes. Conversations with colleagues, students, and other women led me to conclude that many young LDS sisters continue to assume that traditional female careers are the most appropriate or "mom-friendly," and they make educational and career decisions based on that assumption, which is often false. I was shocked to hear about some of our married BYU-Idaho students dropping out of school because they "didn't need a degree anymore."
We all know women whose educational choices have either opened a range of possibilities for them or have limited their options. I think of a friend with a degree in information technology who married in her late 20s after working hard at her career during her single years. When she married, she had the option to transfer, then telecommute when her kids were born. Her education gave her flexibility at different stages of life. Now she is at home with her kids. On the other hand, I know a woman with a large family who did not have similar educational opportunities who went to work as a restaurant hostess when work got scarce for her husband.
I stared to lie awake at night worrying about our BYU-Idaho students faced with the difficulty of making important decisions that would either expand or limit their opportunities. Clearly some of the difficulty for them lies in addressing the uncertainty about when and how their training will be put to use in their future roles as wives and mothers. The difficulty and significance of the problem weighed on me until I decided to write something about the need to provide our students the type of guidance I wish I'd had as a student. When this article was published in our faculty journal, Perspective, I hoped it would ignite discussion and encourage better minds than mine to invent new ways to help our students. The article has had some circulation beyond Rexburg--in fact it connected me to some of the fabulous women behind the BYU Women in Business Conference. This conference is exactly the sort of exposure students need to examples of faithful LDS women applying their education in a variety of ways. There remains work to be done on this front--even at our Church schools we just don't do a good enough job of appropriately prioritizing, even sanctifying, motherhood while helping our female students prepare for a breadth of life possibilities.