Does parenthood hurt a woman’s career?

December 6th, 2014

Harvard Business School released surprising findings from the first installment of survey data it collected on the careers of alumni. They found that women graduates leave school with high career expectations, but end up compromising their professional goals due to taking primary responsibility for child-rearing. Gee, what a surprise… There is much discussion and debate about women not being equally represented in high corporate positions and it may come down to a simple truth—women take on more at home than men do.

The Harvard study theorized that women have the aspirations, but can’t get the appropriate child-care that would allow them to pursue a challenging career. Men on the other hand have the expectation that their career will be the primary one and are less apt to make professional sacrifices for more involvement at home. Therefore, women’s expectations often don’t come close to the reality and men often exceed their expectations. This could be discouraging for any women who are very career oriented. If this is true of Harvard graduates, imagine what it is for women who may not have been as career driven in the first place?

According to those who worked on the study, they could not find a good explanation for the gender gap at the top in business. Therefore, they are skeptical about the belief that women prioritize family over work. While I understand the importance of hard data—I’m skeptical of their skepticism. I believe that many women do put their families and especially the well-being of the children, first. This does not mean they are not passionate about their work or that it isn’t hard for them to give up what they must in order to be more involved parents. However, it’s not possible to be a hands-on parent and a top executive all at the same time. Something has to give and most moms don’t want it to be the well-being of the children.

Feminists will probably seize upon this and start talking more about how men need to step up and how the unfairness needs to be addressed. Good luck with that. There will always be men who are more involved at home, who back up their wives on a regular basis and who are natural born nurturers—however, they are in the minority. Regardless, this comes down to choice, which is what women have fought for. Women choose to marry a certain man and some choose to have a child or children. Even though they may have a rewarding career they want something else too. There is nothing wrong with this and in fact, women who do both suffer depression less than women who stay at home full time. The rub is that it’s the women who work part time and have families that are the least depressed and most satisfied with their lives. This is most likely due to the fact that they are challenged, but not being asked to choose their work over their kids on a daily basis. They have the best of both worlds with less stress and enough time to do a reasonably good job on both fronts.

Unfortunately, part time doesn’t cut it in the corporate world. So all you ladies out there who want to do both full-time—you may want to seek a career change, different work environment or come to grips with years where you are “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The “trailing spouse”

November 29th, 2014

Newly published research in the journal Demography reinforces the belief that women move more often for their spouse’s career than vice versa—but the reasons they cite are new to the debate. What they found is that women enter professions that allow them to be more flexible geographically in order to move or accommodate other needs in their life—especially those of the family. In other words, their careers are more portable, whereas their spouses tend to choose jobs that are tied to a specific location and often have to move in order to get that promotion. It’s interesting to note that even single women tend to move less frequently than single men do—because the careers they choose are more flexible.

None of this means it is easy on the spouse. Her career is impacted and since she has to be the one to make more sacrifices, it puts more strain on their marriage. However, women do choose to do this due most likely to the expectations and norms they were raised with and a woman’s natural tendency to think in terms of the “we” not the “I”. That it continues to occur when women are better educated (more women are earning bachelor’s degrees than men) and more successful in their careers is especially interesting. Maybe it’s not just society influencing it, but something deeper in women themselves. After all, women fought for choice and this is what they are choosing.

What seems doubly unfair is that women who choose more male dominated professions that require moving have a higher divorce rate than women in more flexible careers. So if women move for their spouse, their career can suffer. If they need to move, their marriage could suffer. What is that well-worn line recited over and over again by feminists about “having it all?” if you could fall for that I have this awesome bridge for sale that I would like to show you.

Should this mean women are doomed either way and should give up their career goals and aspirations? No it doesn’t. We just need to remember that there is NO SUCH THING as having it all all at the same time. We will have to give up something to get something, but in the end what we have could bring us great satisfaction. Isn’t that what it is really about for women—finding a balance that allows us to fulfill our deep needs for connection and (often) children, while not giving up on the challenges and triumphs that come with a career we love and have a real talent for?

Want to read the study? You can find it here

Planning for motherhood—eventually

November 21st, 2014

There is a growing trend of women in their thirties freezing their eggs in order to help ensure they will be able to have children in the future. It’s not cheap and can run from approximately $13,000 to $18,000. Many of these would-be Moms are single, others who are married want more time in their career or are just not quite ready to have children yet.

According to the doctors who perform this service, many women are having a hard time finding the right partner—and with the average age of first marriages going up, women are concerned that their fertility may not wait until he comes along. There are also all the often reported concerns about “older” eggs that are pushing women to help their motherhood years stand still or at least increase the viable and safe choice window.

Facebook and apple are now covering this treatment/option, which is probably very good for their bottom line as it will help them to both attract and keep female talent. It seems that guys are OK with the whole idea—after all, it could actually take some pressure off of them if the loud ticking of biological clocks could be quieted.

It all sounds like a great solution to a problem many women today are facing. However no one seems to be really talking about the inconvenient truth that we can’t stop or slow down the clock on our lifespan, and these future moms will be older and maybe much older than anyone had planned. Of course this doesn’t mean they can’t be great Moms, and theoretically they will have more resources, maturity and time to give their children. But they will have more age related issues and will not have as many years with their kids/grandkids as their peers who had children at a younger age. There are never guarantees and many younger parents live shorter lives and leave young children—it’s just that this has the potential to increase. Grandparents may not be as available or even still alive and the parents’ peer group may have moved on to a whole different lifestyle phase which can leave the parents in a kind of social limbo with much younger adults as the parents of their kids’ friends.

Again, none of these has to be a deal breaker. However anyone contemplating having kids in their late 40’s and 50’s may want to give it careful thought beforehand. There’s no such thing as having it all, all at the same time—we give up something to get something else. It’s a long road and we can’t quit just because we are tired. Science has allowed us many more choices and opened up new avenues for our futures. But the one thing we seem to never stop looking for is the fountain of youth. It’s never been found and this is because it (most certainly) doesn’t exist. Kids are an incredible joy and blessing and they change our lives in ways we can’t imagine before we meet ours. Just make sure you are willing and able to go the long and often challenging road raising a child takes you down—n o matter your age when you take the first step.

Marriage is down–remarriage is on the rise

November 16th, 2014

Once again the Pew research Center has come out with something that holds a few eye opening statistics. Four out of every ten newlyweds have been married before-that’s 40% folks. Many are divorced, some are widowed and some have been married multiple times before. This report sheds light on how marriage patterns have been shifting for decades—for instance, only 70% of adults today have been married compared with 85% in 1960. That’s a 15% drop over 50 years. The divorce rate is also much higher and this has contributed to the remarriage increase—apparently baby boomers have a higher divorce rate than any other generation before them.

According to Pew, it’s not that folks are necessarily flocking to the altar to remarry, it’s that there is a much larger pool of once married singles and from this group, we are seeing an uptick in remarriages. What is also interesting is that men are more likely and more motivated to remarry than women are. Apparently men enjoyed having a woman care for them in their first marriage and women who are divorced or widowed aren’t necessarily eager to take on another role as caregiver to a new man. What is not entirely surprising is that remarried men are likely to marry a woman who is at least 10 years younger, while remarried women end up with partners who are older or closer to their own age. 42 million adults remarried in 2013, which is 22 million more than in 1980. In addition 8% of these folks had been married three times or more. What’s also interesting is that older Americans are more likely to be in this remarriage group than younger adults. Those who are 25-34 have a 43% remarriage rate, while those who are older have a 50% rate of remarriage.

If you are an older, single adult who wishes to remarry, this is good news—especially if you are a man. If you are in the younger category with the same marital aspirations, you might be experiencing difficulty either finding potential partners for first time marriage or someone who wants to have a second or third try at getting it right. However, no one has to settle for becoming a statistic. How much success you have in finding and creating a healthy relationship continues to be related to your relationship readiness, how well you handle your own single life, your general attitude and what it tells others about you—and how much effort you are willing to put into it. Just remember that disappointment will come with dating and hopefully you will learn from it and develop the resources and tools that maximize your efforts and increases your chances of finding that right someone if this is what you desire.

Want to read the study? Click here

Marriage is good for your bottom line

November 2nd, 2014

For a number of reasons, it is just not politically correct today to talk about how important marriage is. We might offend women who are older and not yet married, or be accused of being “old-fashioned” and setting young people back in their educational/career aspirations. And to say that marriage actually leads to greater financial security/wealth—well, you know. Only gold-diggers think that way…

Well, it’s not just more conservative folks with an agenda saying these things anymore. There is a new study out that will hopefully open a dialogue about the positive aspects of marriage—getting married and staying married for the sake of all the individuals in the family. W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise institute; and Robert L. Lerman, the Urban Institute’s fellow in labor and social policy and a professor of economics at American University—collaborated on a study whose findings revealed that stable, two-parent families decrease the probability that people will end up living in poverty and/or in financially unstable circumstances.

In this study, titled; For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America—the research is broken down into five areas. However, I am only going to focus on the economics here. Their shocking economic conclusion is that the medium income of families that include children would have been 44% greater two years ago (2012) if the marriage rate had remained the same as it was in the 1980’s. So in the last twenty years the divorced and unmarried number of parents has risen significantly, and with it, incomes have dropped by 44%, which has a very negative impact on the parents and especially the children in those families. Essentially, many families now in the lower class could have risen to the middle-class had they had the structure, support and resources that marriage offers. It’s hard to argue with statistics and hard research, folks.

The researchers also found that the gap is worsening due to adults with less education and fewer assets choosing not to marry at all—while better educated and higher earning folks, are the ones getting married and planning carefully for children. Perhaps this is a major contributor to the frequent lament we hear today about how the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Our individual choices DO matter—and that is good news because that is something we have control over.

I am not in any way implying that you should marry just for financial security. It is so important to choose wisely, with both your heart and your head. What I am saying is that staying in a relationship because you are “in love” with someone who doesn’t seem to have any interest in marriage could end up being a dead end for you—and lead to a future of greater financial struggle and insecurity. Finding that right person is first, finding someone who wants what you want is a close second. Compatibility and similar goals and Values do matter. Yes, this is practical—and ask any happily married person how they chose their partner. My guess is they would say it was a conscious and thought out decision, not just one based on intensity and biology.

The reality is that it is easier for some people to get an education, find a good job and enjoy the good life—but this is possible for everyone. It may take more work and determination for some, but not letting that get in the way means you too can have a piece of that promised American Dream.

Want to read more about this study and its findings? Click here

For professional success—choose a conscientious spouse

October 31st, 2014

Psychological Science has published an interesting study conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis that links career success with certain spousal traits. Somehow we have always known that who you choose to marry will play a large role in your future life—but now we know it can greatly impact your career success and therefore, financial security and lifestyle choices. Turns out that it is really important to choose wisely.

Their research studied the personality characteristics and careers of 4,500 married people. The test they used measures people on five traits—extraversion, openness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness. They found that only one trait—conscientiousness– had a significant impact on their spouse’s career success. They defined success as level of income, steady promotions and job satisfaction. This study used Australian couples as they provided a significant number for the sample group.

The conclusions the researchers came away with are that a spouse’s behavior tends to rub off on their partner and over time we pick up on one another’s habits and strengths. Secondly, if one’s spouse has it together and handles a great deal at home and outside of work—their partner is freer to focus on their career and to put in the time and energy that leads to promotions and greater success.

What was very interesting is that they found no gender differences between the traits that helped a woman’s or a man’s career. Either one benefited from having a conscientious spouse. So take note both men and women readers out there. It’s great to love their beautiful smile, their positive energy, their smarts, and the interesting quirks that make them uniquely them. But if he or she is a slacker—you may be in for a life of long hours, low pay and thoughts of what might have been.

Women are better decision makers

October 20th, 2014

Now we actually have science to back up what many of us have observed throughout our lives—that women often seem to make better decisions than men. I’ve always thought of it as using their intuition better—that spidey-sense that lies somewhere between common sense and emotional reasoning.

However, it seems that neuroscientists at the University of Southern California and at Duke University have found that it’s about how the sexes operate under stressful circumstances that separates the men from the women—and according to them it all comes down to the stress hormone, cortisol. Apparently when under stress, men take more risks than women which often leads to a failed outcome. Women on the other hand, cut their risks when under stress, avoiding adding to their mistakes and instead, playing it safer.

Another fascinating outcome from one study was that when under stress, women demonstrated higher levels of empathy. For instance, if they were tasked with getting up in front of a large audience to do a presentation, their empathy for anyone facing the same situation went up. But men instead became more egocentric—if I did it, what’s the big deal?

If we apply these finding to the interactions between the sexes, they help to explain a few things. For instance, men can be very unsympathetic to the feelings/struggles of a child while women are very tuned in to them. This can also be seen in male supervisors and managers at work—they often take the attitude of just do it, others have, I have, what is the big deal. Whereas, women who have been there get it and are usually supportive that it can be hard.

The next time you run across this in your significant other or even with a male at work—you may want to try a different approach. Explaining where you are coming from and asking in a close-ended and unemotional way for help or support from the male in your life may get you the best results. Logic, not emotion is a better way to reach them. While you are at it, remind yourself it’s biology, and not personal.

Cameron Diaz’s engagement body language

October 12th, 2014

Cameron Diaz is smiling a lot this week. She arrived at the Academy’s Costume luncheon last Wednesday with a noticeably dazzling diamond ring on her left hand. According to other luncheon goers, Ms. Diaz was twirling her hair with that hand, playing with the ring—and smiling from ear to ear. Later that same day she had dinner with friends, and again—the ring seemed to be taking center stage even though no conversations were overheard to confirm the probable happy news.

Ms. Diaz has been dating Benji Madden for a while now and their relationship is rumored to have intensified when they spent time with her family during the summer. Her friends and acquaintances all have been reporting that she seems happier and more content than her younger self in this relationship, and that he seems to be as into her as she is to him. It’s also been reported that Mr. madden moved in with Ms. Diaz a few months ago—so it sounds as though the relationship has been steadily gaining momentum. It’s also interesting to note that their friends report they are more homebodies now, spending time just hanging out together.

At 42, Ms. Diaz is known for a number of past celebrity hook-ups and relationships and as a woman who seemed content to remain single. Therefore, it’s unlikely she would take an engagement lightly, like many of her peers who have been through several marriages and divorces by the time they reach her age.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if someone with her celebrity status were to join the ranks of the very few Hollywood marriages that go the distance? Ms. Diaz and Mr. Madden—if you are indeed engaged—congratulations!

Showtime’s unique treatment of “The Affair”

October 11th, 2014

Tomorrow is the start of a new drama on Showtime titled “The Affair”. Before you start yawning and thinking, “next,” this version of an old story promises to be different. It’s set in The Hamptons—and if you are one of the few who don’t know where this is, it’s a well-known playground out on Long island, NY, for the wealthy and often famous. “Noah” is married with four kids, a wife who comes from wealth– and he is a professional with a comfortable lifestyle who is staying with his family at his in-laws manse for a summer vacation. “Alison” is younger (of course), and is a waitress in town. She does have a nice beach house that she inherited, so that sets her apart from the usual younger and penniless other woman stereotype.

This treatment of the topic promises to be different due to the secrets that its characters keep from one another and from the audience, their views on who came on to whom and got the affair going—and in its overall unique frame and handling of their relationship. Apparently there is more suspense and less focus on the usual hot and heavy sneaking around and instead is a kind of crime drama that is slow to be revealed.

The story unfolds in flashbacks—and is filled with he said/she said inconsistencies in the story. The viewer is left with trying to figure out who is telling the truth and which version is the real one. He is (predictably) in the midst of a mid-life crisis, and she has her own problems that are leading to her unhappiness but these are only hinted at. Secrets are everywhere and they add to the suspense and the show’s claim that viewers will find it addictive. If you enjoy “who done it” type mysteries, this might be just the show for you.

Many women have a back-up partner in mind

October 6th, 2014

In the movie, The Titanic, the aged version of Rose shared in a poignant moment that “a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.” It seems that a newly released survey backs this up. The Daily Mail conducted a survey with 1,000 women—and found that 50% of them have a back-up partner in mind if their marriage doesn’t work out or ends for some other reason.

If you are a woman you might be thinking, yeah I’ve kept tabs on so and so for years, just in case. Or perhaps you note attractive men in your day to day life and environment and think, he’s a possibility. Women have a bit of practice with this as they are the ones who read those steamy romance novels and go to chick flicks. Maybe it’s due to a practical side—always planning for the worst case scenario and not getting caught short.

This is interesting too because following divorce or death of a spouse, it’s actually men who couple up and marry quickly, not women. Maybe because these guys were part of some woman’s back-up plan and when they become available, they get snapped up quickly.

So who are these men that women keep in the wings? Ex-boyfriends, colleagues, ex-husbands (yes, his ex may still have her eye on him) and guys at the gym—and I would imagine church and neighborhood as well. According to the women surveyed, 10% said their back-up was someone who had already declared feelings of love to them in the past, and 20% stated that the guy they had their eye on would drop everything for her if she asked. Pretty confident, but I’m not convinced this is not just their over-active romantic side talking.

So is this a bad thing? Some would say yes, as women might act on these fantasies when they are going through a rough marital patch. Others would say it’s good to be pragmatic and always have a back-up plan for everything important in your life. Does this mean all these women are unhappily married? No, I don’t think so. I think this fantasy is part of their escape from reality. When their relationship is hard, they escape to what might have been or what could be. It’s probably pretty benign unless they really do believe he would drop everything and count on this during a desperate or challenging time in their lives.