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.”