Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

First Advisor

Susan Talburt

Second Advisor

Megan Sinnott

Third Advisor

Wendy Simonds


This work focuses on understanding how nine Brazilian college women, from different ethnicities and sexual orientations, navigate their future expectations related to career and personal lives. Thus, the research explores how they are planning to create and maintain a work/life balance and how they are shaping their intentions in relation to the duality “lean in”/ “opt out,” a dichotomy that tells women to work hard and assert themselves or to leave the competitive workplace. Based on in-depth qualitative interviews held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the author explores how the women’s idealized futures do not follow the propositions offered by “lean in”/“opt out.” Instead, these young women dream of a balanced life in which happiness, understood as the possibility of being free to make their own choices, collides with the limited boundaries of “lean in”/“opt out.” Their pursuit of happiness operates under a neoliberal logic based on a cost-benefit calculus in which “lean in”/“opt out” does not offer a viable alternative for their futures.