- Women list each of career, marriage, and children as higher priorities then men do.
- Young women earn almost as much as men, but older women earn significantly less.
- Men benefit from marriage more than women.
- Work/life balance is more difficult for women, primarily due to childbirth and childcare.
And she has a simple explanation:
No amount of girl power—or denial—can obscure these deep-set gender dynamics. Women are acutely aware of the need to be especially ambitious in order to succeed—the same extra ambition any marginalized group needs to climb the career ladder and crack glass ceilings. It’s the reason more women are getting college degrees, and the reason why many women try more intently to find a mate at a younger age (although that’s changing). The sexual economy, as well as the professional one, are simply skewed in men’s favor, especially as the years go on. Why wouldn’t they be more relaxed about their life choices?
So we have the reason why more women are geting college degrees. And the reason why they want to find a mate at a younger age. They must be more ambitious, because the world skewed in men’s favor.
A few initial thoughts on this explanation: if these data are all because women are rationally assessing their chances in life and find they must be more ambitious, why should women be more ambitious about marriage? Because, as the author points out, it’s not in their interest to the same degree that it is for men. Men should be pursuing marriage more than women — but they’re not. Also, if it’s the same extra ambition that any marginalized group needs, why isn’t any other marginalized group disproportionately represented in college enrollment?
I have no idea what the explanation for these data are. It’s possible that with a few tweaks, Aronowitz is right. Here are a couple of possibilities that the author does not consider and argue against: That the efforts of the past two decades to encourage girls at the primary and secondary levels has succeeded all too well. That contrary to previous evolutionary psychological musing, when birth control and somewhat equal work opportunities are readily available, and high-paying jobs are not physically demanding, women are actually more innately ambitious than men. That for some further reason, men are feeling more unable than women to affect the course of their own lives, so why bother prioritizing? That men feel relieved of the burden of having to be breadwinner, and relieved to be free of such strong social expectations to marry.
Here are a few anecdotal thoughts:
I teach men and women about to embark on their careers. I don’t get the sense that either group feels that the world is going to hand them everything they want on a silver platter. That fact drives some people to work harder, others to curl up in a ball and avoid the world.
Also, I work in a very male-dominated field. The field is not well set up for parenthood. Meetings and colloquia happen after school hours. Workplace bonding and networking happens in bars after work. It has been questioned several times to my face, and behind my back, whether my having children means I am insufficiently willing or able to devote myself to my work. My husband is in the same department, and no such discussion occurs. I would probably say my husband is more ambitious than I am. I have to think more about children and work than most men do in no small part, not because of greater ambition, but because it is brought up to me.