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More Women Than Men Value Career Success

This article was written by in Career and Work, Family and Life, Featured. 10 comments.


A new survey by the Pew Research Center shows women have surpassed men in placing value on career advancement. Among 18 to 34-year-olds, 66 percent of women consider being successful in a high-paying career or job is one of the most important things or very important, compared to 59 percent of men. In 1997, 56 percent of women had the same response, almost even with men, at 58 percent.

This change doesn’t come at the expense of the importance of being a good parent or having a solid marriage. Marriage and family are strong priorities today for both men and women, with a score of over 90 percent. For men aged 18 to 34, 29 percent now list marriage as a top priority, down from 37 percent in 1997.

Career womanThe workplace has changed throughout the last century. The shift from traditional gender roles to shared responsibility in the workplace and at home is considered a beneficial change for the country. 73 percent of Americans agree that the trend of an increased role for women across professions is better for society as a whole, and 62 percent believe that shared responsibility at home leads to a more satisfying marriage. At the same time only 21 percent of Americans believe mothers of young children working outside the home is a positive approach to life, and 37 percent believe this is bad for society.

While women’s role in careers have increased, so have their wages and salaries compared to men’s. Women aged between 16 and 34 now earn more than 90 cents for every dollar earned by men in the same age range. Women, however, surpass men in education; women are more likely to have bachelor degrees, with 36 percent of women aged 25 to 29 having advanced education compared to 28 percent of men in the same age group.

This is a significant increase for women in education over the past several decades, and it’s somewhat reflected in the increase in salary parity. But women still are more likely to pause their careers for family reasons, although this is less often the case than in the past. This likely contributes to the fact that women as a group still do not match or exceed men in compensation.

Women in today’s workforce who do marry and have children are not necessarily leaving their careers to do so. Today’s woman often balances her career with her husband and children. Fully 48% of married couples in 2010 consisted of two breadwinners. The share of dual-employed couples was slightly higher in 1997 (53%). Back in 1975, however, the share of families with both a husband and wife in the labor force was only 34%.

If these trends continue, I expect sometime in the future for women’s salaries to exceed men’s salaries. Women will continue to be higher educated and will be qualified for higher-paying careers. Women will continue to increase the value they place on their career. Men will continue to pursue a stronger role in family.

Photo: @yakobusan Jakob Montrasio
Pew Research Center

Updated April 24, 2012 and originally published April 23, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

I’ve been on both sides of this discussion, first as a stay at home mom for a dozen or so years, and now a working mom. For a number of years, I was a single mom of three kids, so I put a high value on success in the workplace, because to me, that meant earning a living that could provide for me and my children. Perhaps that’s a reason more women are valuing career success because of the high number of single moms who are the primary breadwinner in their households.

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avatar Whitney

Hate statistics on women. They completely ignore real-life, day-to-day social problems. Like how at 24, even though I work in a field split nearly 50/50 by gender, I’ve faced subtle gender discrimination multiple times (of course, the people doing the discriminating were completely unaware). Doesn’t matter what the statistics say…women are still being denied the ability to make money for very very very stupid reasons.

Appreciate your concern though.

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avatar Whitney

Sorry, Flexo, but the picture ain’t that rosy. Any time a high of a percentage of people debate over whether mothers should go to work or not…that’s indicative that people, in general, have too many beliefs on what women should and shouldn’t do…even the unmarried, single, career women have other people’s opinions flung on them…so much so that at 24 it’s made it difficult for me to earn steady money due to gender bias.

You don’t see it because it’s subtle.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,495 (Platinum)

How does one have too many beliefs? Should people not have opinions about important issues? If you’re saying that it’s sad that as a society we must still face the realities of discrimination after generations of indoctrination, then I agree, but I’m not sure if that’s what your complaint is. I find it difficult to think that gender bias is the sole reason any individual, unmarried, single, career woman or otherwise, would find it difficult to earn steady money. We’re talking about declining differences in pay, not a cavernous gap between white men, all who get rich through their careers, and everyone else, all who are squandering in poverty.

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avatar Whitney

I guess all I’m saying is that these stats paint a rosier picture than reality. Gender bias in today’s work environment is so subtle that I think any statement about “the state of women today” should be focused on the social, not the numbers.

Trust me when I say gender bias is so real you’d be disgusted. Here’s a story on Copyblogger about a female copywriter (my profession) that dealt with gender bias affecting her ability to make money 3 years ago:
Google: Copyblogger James Chartrand Underpants

This is exactly what has happened to me continuously for the last year.

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avatar Jim

Whitney, I’m not sure how this article illicted your response. What did it say that you find objection to?? You talk about ‘subtle’ discrimination. What qualifies?

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avatar Whitney

It’s just my trigger-response to articles that point out how well women are doing and how equal things are. It’s not that Flexo has done anything wrong, but it is obvious (to me) when someone writes about women who isn’t aware of what’s going on under the surface.

But here’s a real number: 68 percent of women believe gender discrimination exists in the workplace.

Subtle discrimination: People expecting different things out of you because you’re a woman. Not getting jobs that you “should” get for no clear reason. People less accepting of your work and salary requirements because you’re not a man. People not wanting to work with you because the second you tried to negotiate money or contracts, you were labeled as “difficult”.

It’s everywhere. I suggested that Flexo Google an article called “Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants” as an example. A lot of men confess in the comment section of the article that they had no idea.

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avatar qixx ♦1,895 (Half-Dollar)

Neither Flexo nor the article have even tried to indicate that things are equal. Both point out things are improving. Most of the article is about priority changes. The earning piece is one of many data points. It points out women make about 90% the same as men for the same work. Not equality.

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avatar Jerry

There are many careers that allow women now to work within the home and give them the opportunity to be with their children, as well. This is not a perfect situation and can lead to stress for the working mom but getting flex time, help from babysitters, etc. can help to manage the stress. Making sure women’s skills are utilized is insurance for our future. Thankfully, these days women do not have to choose motherhood or career.

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avatar Dizzy

There are very few “careers” that allow this beyond minimum wage call centre jobs or the like, which don’t provide much security for the family or the mother (when the kids are old enough she can work wherever). Any higher-level stuff – marketing or consulting or whatever from a home office – require the kids to have care elsewhere so work can be focused on and treated with the appropriate seriousness. These aren’t solutions really.

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