The article analyses factors shaping work values in Estonian women’s lives. Earlier studies of the transition period in Estonia have shown gendered shifts at endorsement of self-improvement options and valuing the opportunities to use one’s abilities at work. Women have been shown to value the two criteria more than men in selecting their occupations after societal change. Earlier studies did not determine the factors shaping value judgments and the present paper seeks to fill that gap.
The article is based on a position common among value researchers: that circumstances of life shape values. The analyses are based on the results of a longitudinal study of high school graduates from 1983, in which the same people were surveyed during the radical changes in Estonian society in the following twenty years. To predict changes in value judgments multinomial regression analysis was utilized. The influence of four groups of possible factors was tested: (1) characteristics of the developmental circumstances of the surveyed, (2) indicators related to their education, (3) characteristics of their professional lives and (4) value judgments and norms.
The analysis showed that the likelihood of greater valuing of continuous self-development in the workplace was increased by graduating from a high school in the capital of Estonia, greater orientation to vocational self-improvement already in high school and not considering norms dominating in the family at the beginning of the transition period. The likelihood of greater valuing of continuous self-improvement was decreased by below-average study results and not pursuing education beyond high school.
The likelihood of greater valuing of the opportunities to use one’s abilities in the work- place increased among those who had graduated from a regular high school and worked in the industrial and service sector (rather than the feminized sphere of education). The likelihood of a decrease in this value was reduced by being from a Russian-speaking family, having higher than average study results and non-participation in in-service training courses at the beginning of transition.
The analyses show that the shifts that appeared in both value preferences in the period of social change can be considered as long-term gradual adaptations to the changing social environment that reflect people’s reactions to the changing social circumstances.