In a headline that calls out for attention — “A Gender Reversal on Career Aspirations” — the Pew Research Center reports that two-thirds of young women now say “being successful in a high-paying career or profession” is one of the most important goals in their lives.
While it may not be surprising that these women express more ambition than their mothers and grandmothers, it is surprising when they also display more ambition than their male peers. Is this a sign, then, that we are witnessing “a gender reversal”? Or does it represent a kind of denial — on the part of young women and men — about the obstacles they will ultimately face at the workplace and in life..?
Yet…young people are not only postponing marriage, they are also far more likely than earlier generations to believe it is better to stay single than to enter or stay in a dissatisfying relationship. Moreover, while young women see marriage as desirable, they do not believe it is essential to their own happiness or to becoming a parent…
Women are particularly aware of how hard it is to sustain a relationship, especially in the context of persistent work-family conflicts and rising financial uncertainty. An egalitarian partnership may be the ideal, but most young women see self-reliance through paid work as essential to their survival, offering the option to choose the right relationship, maintain a measure of autonomy within it and go it alone if nothing better comes along…
Men’s prospects have dimmed in finding the kind of stable jobs and careers their fathers and grandfathers took for granted. With the uncertainties of the new economy, where few jobs offer lifetime security, men’s scaled back aspirations are as understandable as women’s rising goals. Men, too, are caught on the horns of a dilemma, torn between the difficulty of establishing a steady career and strong pressures to define their worth by the size of the paycheck.
As women’s career aspirations rise and men’s tumble, this declining gender gap should serve as a wake-up call. Younger generations want to combine the personal pursuit of challenging, well-rewarded paid work with the pleasures and responsibilities of a committed family life. In fact, earlier Pew surveys found 73% of Americans believe that women’s employment has been a “change for the better,” while 62% say that sharing the responsibilities of paid work and rearing children is “more satisfying than a more traditional marriage.”
RTFA. Combine this analysis with the number of women beginning to surpass men in collegiate training, learning – and we may well be seeing the start of something new in the character of our society.
I’ve actually witnessed something similar, a parallel in Eastern European countries as education freed up many young women from traditional definitions. I remember a party I attended after an opening night at the Warsaw Opera notable for a drunken lout, the male spouse of the lead soprano – who also had a second career as a physician. His friends referred to him in a newly-current phrase as “the husband of the wife”.