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December 31 2013

Forcing Gender Parity Won't Buy Women Happiness

Christina Villegas

The movement for gender parity is fueled by the belief that – all things being equal – men and women will pursue the same life course, but – as the New York Post’s Naomi Schaefer Riley and others here at IWF have clearly demonstrated – any lack of parity largely results from women’s own choices.  

In fact, one of the most ignored realities in the argument for absolute equality in status and pay is that many women do not seek, nor desire, such parity.  For instance, W. Bradford Wilcox of the American Enterprise Institute recently summarized data from the Pew Research Center showing that – if given the opportunity – a large majority of married mothers would prefer to work part-time or not at all.

Furthermore, far more women than men reported turning down a promotion or making other family-related career sacrifices, yet – much to the chagrin of those who believe that women can only be fulfilled through their career – the women making these sacrifices were also more likely to be “very happy” with their lives.

These results may relate to another study on happiness discussed yesterday by Patrice J. Lee, which found that – once basic material needs are met – rewarding work and relationships are more directly correlated with happiness than money.  Despite the media’s constant glorification of the career woman, many women actually find time spent at home to be both rewarding and satisfying.

Perhaps it is time for those who claim to speak for women to recognize that women will not always make the exact same life choices as men and that – while some women may desire a corner office – many others prefer flexible jobs that will allow them to play a more prominent role in their children’s lives.  

Unfortunately, the current obsession with legislating gender parity – which in most cases will only lessen workplace flexibility – has caused barriers to such flexibility to go unnoticed.  For example, Carrie Lukas pointed out last month that under the Fair Labor Standards Act the federal government actually limits women’s opportunity to pursue flexible work hours by making it illegal for hourly workers to opt for more time off rather than overtime pay.

If those in Washington and the media really want to increase women’s ability to choose their course in life, they can start by demanding the removal of such restrictive barriers to freedom of economic choice and the right to pursue happiness based on such choice. 

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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