The Pew Research Center offers startling, groundbreaking numbers on “Today’s Woman” who “often balances her career with her husband and children.” (Yes, this is a study from 2012, not 1975.) It is called “A Gender Reversal on Career Aspirations: Young Women Now Top Young Men in Valuing A High Paying Career.” Hide your kids, people.
Pew did not exactly blow my mind its recent study of women’s career aspirations, and I’m pretty easy to win over when it comes to statistics and percentages coupled with fancy graphs I can’t see without my reading glasses. The main findings, summed up, are:
- Young women ages 18 to 34 now surpass their male peers in the importance they place on their careers. Two-thirds of the women surveyed (66%) said they considered their careers high on their list of life priorities.
- Back in the nineties, middle-aged men were more than twice as likely to say they considered being successful in a high-paying career to be very important. Now, the number of middle aged and older men and women who say this is nearly the same (43% and 42% respectively).
- For men and women, being a good parent and having a successful marriage “continue to rank significantly higher on their list of priorities than being successful in a high-paying job or career. Thus, the increased importance women are now placing on their careers has not come at the expense of the importance they place on marriage and family.”
Let me just give you a little context here. I am single and childless, unless you count my mastiff/shepherd, who is totally a big ‘ol baby in my book—but I don’t want to equate family life with the dog park.
Anyway, my career has been my connection to society at large since I graduated from college. I like the idea of being with someone for a long time into old age, but I’m conflicted about marriage and having children. My romantic heart, which used to thump loudly in my adolescent chest while reading Jackie Collins and Harlequin, suggests that love is all we need.
Relationships matter more than money and success. I believe that. So do a lot of other people, apparently, even though real world data doesn’t necessarily reflect that shift.
- Even though fewer people are getting married, the shares of working-age men and women who prioritize having a successful marriage and being a good parent are 80% and 90% respectively. The first figure is about the same as it was in 1997; the second figure has risen 9 percentage points among young women.
- Men are getting less interested in marriage: 35% in 1997 considered a successful marriage a priorty compared to 29% now.
- Parenting ranks even higher than careers or marriage on people’s life priority list—and it has been rising for men.
Seven in ten mothers with children at home are in the workforce. So, if I ever decide to have children, I’ll have lots of company, since I’m pretty sure I will also have to and want to be working. The figure of mothers working was 47% in 1975; in 2010, it was 71%. Curiously enough, while a 2011 research poll found that 73% of Americans thought more women in the workforce had been a positive change for society, 37% said it was a bad thing for society and 38% said it didn’t make a difference. Nice to see we’re making some progress.