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July 8 2013

Career Choices: What Women Want

Charlotte Hays

We’ve long made the case here at IWF that, when women’s choices are factored in, the gender wage gap all but vanishes.

The New York Times today discovers something we’ve known along: that women, not all women, but a significant portion of them, simply have different professional priorities from men.

They often make different choices from men and many want a job that allows them to participate on child-rearing in a hands-on way.

The story focuses on Sara Uttech, a working mother in Wisconsin:

Sara Uttech has not spent much of her career so far worrying about “leaning in.” Instead, she has mostly been hanging on, trying to find ways to get her career to accommodate her family life, rather than the other way around.

Ms. Uttech, like many working mothers, is a married college graduate, and her job running member communications for an agricultural association helps put her family near the middle of the nation’s income curve.

And like dozens of other middle-class working mothers interviewed about their work and family lives, she finds climbing a career ladder less of a concern than finding a position that offers paid sick leave, flexible scheduling or even the opportunity to work fewer hours. The ultimate luxury for some of them, in fact (though not for Ms. Uttech), would be the option to be a stay-at-home mother. …

Ms. Uttech wants a rewarding career, but more than that she wants a flexible one. That ranking of priorities is not necessarily the one underlying best-selling books like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” which advises women to seek out leadership positions, throw themselves at their careers, find a partner who helps with child care and supports their ambition, and negotiate for raises and promotions.   

The Times points out that the recent flood of books giving advice to women on how to get ahead in the workplace fails to take into consideration that only 37 per cent of women say they want bigger jobs with more responsibilities (44 per cent of men want more demanding jobs).

Among mothers with children under 18, three quarters would not work full time outside the home if they were financially able to achieve this goal, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll. Since about half are working full time, it’s safe to say that some would prefer to be doing something else.

With the support of her book club, Sara Uttech worked up the nerve to ask her boss to allow her to work at home on Fridays—a request that was granted. She urges others not to be afraid to ask, even if they might get a negative answer. It’s an interesting story—but mostly because it acknowledges that women often make different choices from men—and from each other.  

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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