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.
The 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.
Updated April 24, 2012 and originally published April 23, 2012.