Gender Equality is the Friend of the Family

My latest at the Guardian:

Are women more career-driven than men?

Yes, according to a new Pew poll showing that in 2010 and 2011, 66% of women – compared to 59% of men – said being successful in a high-paying career or profession was “one of the most important things” or “very important” in their lives. For women, that’s a 10-point jump from 1997, when only 56% put success in a high-paying career as a top priority. For men, the numbers are basically static: 15 years ago, 58% of men said a successful high-paying career was very important or one of the most important things.

Instead of showing that men’s ambitions have “stagnated” or that women are “surpassing” them, these Pew results instead reflect financial realities for many Americans, and the benefits of shifting gender roles. The gender wage gap, though narrowing, is still substantial – a woman makes 77 cents to a man’s dollar, for the same job and the same number of hours, despite the fact that more women are now graduating from college than men. More than twice as many women as men (and most of them women of color) work in occupations that pay poverty wages for a family of four. Many women are single mothers, and a high-paying job means the difference between thriving and barely surviving.

And despite media portrayals of stay-at-home moms as wealthy Ann Romneys, the reality is that women who forgo work for child-rearing are more likely to be lower-income and less educated (also raising the question of how much staying at home is a “choice” or just happens to be more financially viable than working a low-wage job and paying for childcare). For many women, prioritizing a well-paying career is a necessity, since making a liveable wage doing low-skilled work isn’t something we can count on.

But the Pew poll also reflects how increases in gender equality have been better for families, including men. Fifty-nine percent of women and 47% of men say that being a good parent is a top priority: that’s a 17-point hike from what women said in 1997, and an 8-point hike for men. Despite societal finger-wagging that women “can’t have it all”, women today are seeing that, while balancing career and family is not easy, it is entirely possible – especially since modern men are much more likely to help out. (And we see that the family/career balance would be a heck of a lot easier with some policy changes like family leave, universal healthcare, better aid to low-income families and affordable childcare.)

Read it all here.

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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Economics, Feminism, Gender, Marriage, Politics, Poverty, Race & Ethnicity, Reproductive Rights, Work and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Gender Equality is the Friend of the Family

  1. D.N. Nation says:

    Dads who also balance work and family mean working moms aren’t under quite as much pressure to be full-time employees and over-time parents, and so young women now can reasonably expect to have a fulfilling career and also be great moms. And dads, relieved of the burden to be the sole financial provider for their entire families, can recognize that their contributions to their kids can go far beyond the monetary, and include the tough but fulfilling emotional work of parenting, as well.

    I really like this paragraph; it hits close-ish to home. My wife is currently busting her ass in a PhD program and once she graduates will earn much more than me. She also hasn’t made more than a handful of meals for the two of us in the past four years. But I *love* cooking just as she *loves* the field she’s in, so it all works out. I’m not naive enough to think “follow your heart” is an end-all in these sorts of things, but I also know that we don’t define ourselves through artificial social constructs and so we’re happier.

  2. roro80 says:

    Jill, just dropping in to say that I really, really liked your guardian article. Great work.

  3. Faithless says:

    are there any recent studies or new research on how policy changes that add expenses to existing business models like mandated private industry spending to provide child care options or healthcare mandates might affect single people without families?

    In short, if the cost of doing business rises due to encouragement for private institutions to fund family support structures, does where ever all that money comes from impact single household individuals in any way?

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  5. Nancy Green says:

    I figured out long ago that I shouldn’t be underpaid by my boss, who I don’t love, so that my husband, who I do love, has to work harder to pay the bills.

  6. When my wife was pregnant with our first of two children, we eventually decided that I would work and she stay at home on the basis that my job (nurse) attracted more wages than hers (hairdresser). Subsequently, she was growled at several times by women who somehow seemed to feel that she was betraying womanhood by being a stay-at-home mother. When I mentioned this to a woman I worked with, she suggested that the women doing the growling might be jealous.

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