Point of Reference
by Fred Price
In response to the ongoing debate amongst many academics concerning men and women’s scholastic and business capabilities, I thought it would be interesting to note how two unlikely heralds of political correctness actually stepped up and simply reported the truth. TIME Magazine running a cover story titled, The Case For Staying Home – Why more young moms are opting out of the rat race; while The New York Times Magazine asked on it’s cover, Why Don’t More Women Get To The Top? , answering boldly – They Choose Not To .1
Claudia Wallis’ article, The Case For Staying Home , attempts to uncover the motivation compelling some women to choose home over the workplace; the answer is really quite simple – caught between the pressure of the workplace and the demands of being a mom, many women are choosing the kids. In it she mentions Psychologist Daphne de Marneffe’s book, Maternal Design; which argues convincingly that feminists and American society as a whole have ignored the basic maternal instinct that most women feel to have children as well as the urge to meaningfully care for them. The fragmented time presently allotted to kids in many cases being inadequate to their proper care and unsatisfying to the parent as well. Yet in an attempt at evenhanded reporting she does note the struggle in developing a new identity outside of the office, accompanied by the loss of income as difficulties many experience in making the choice to opt out of the workforce. The recent pandemic highlighting this dilemma as well, many men and women struggling to find their place in the new scheme of things when much of the country was shut down, but are now reluctant to return to business as usual.
The truth of the matter is that for many women, not working doesn’t seem to be an option. Around 72% of women with children under 18 are now in the work force, in part due to downsizing, lay-offs and administrative re-organizations that put their husbands out of work. Yet oddly enough, it is among the professional and managerial classes where the “revolt” is most evident, higher incomes causing more significant losses and adjustments if given up but creating more choices as well; prompting some women to choose lighter workloads or part-time jobs until the kids are older or raised. The new mantra becoming: You can have it all, just not all at the same time. Ms. Belkin of the NYT Magazine article summarizing: “There is nothing wrong with money or power. But they come at a high price. And lately when women talk about success they use words like satisfaction, balance, and sanity.”
My personal caution here would be that many men and women force these situations on themselves by not being reasonable in their expectations, thereby placing themselves in a position where both parties must work merely to pay the bills – to survive. It really often is a matter of priorities. What’s more important – a bigger house, newer car, more conveniences and toys or your child’s upbringing, safety and personal guidance only a parent can bestow?
Census data reveals the turnaround graphically, with a larger percentage of moms holding graduate or professional degrees, the very women seemingly destined to break through the so-called glass ceiling of a few years ago, now home with the kids. Ms. Belkin reporting that her investigation revealed, “Many high powered women today don’t ever hit the glass ceiling… (But) it’s not just that the workplace has failed women. It is also that women are rejecting the workplace.”; regularly choosing to leave for motherhood.
In 1971,9% of medical degrees, 7% of law degrees, and 4% of M.B.A.s were awarded to women; 30 years later those figures were 43%, 47%, and 41% respectively; and yet a Catalyst survey shows 1in 3women with M.B.A.’s not working full time. Author Sylvia Hewitt of Columbia University noting, “What we have discovered… over the last five years is that many women who have any kind of choice are opting out.”
Some still ask – Why? On the brink of what the world trumpets as success, why are women choosing home and motherhood? Ms. Belkin argues that “the barriers of 40 years ago are down,” pointing out that women are as likely to be in the majority as in the minority of graduating classes at schools like Yale, Berkeley, Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton. “They are recruited by top firms in all fields. They start strong out of the gate. And then, suddenly, they stop.”; acknowledging that some see this as a revolution stalled, creating a new generational split and a step backward. Others see it as a step back in time to a sensibility anchored in love and respect for one’s family and the environs of the home, allowing for a giant leap forward – something like a back to the future type thing!
The reality is that along with the ebb and flow of time and values, many men and women have decided they don’t want to be defined or confined by the parameters of the workplace. Another Catalyst survey, confirms that many young people don’t want to make the trade-offs the previous generation made in pursuit of workplace success; both genders rating personal and family goals higher than career goals.
Neither these findings nor this article should be misconstrued as being anti-work or anti-career. It is, however, a call for balance, priorities and a lifestyle grounded in God’s word. Publisher Joel Belz of World Magazine , summing up the facts and figures of this issue – as well as others – with, “Truth… is a powerful force. People can conceal reality in their lives only so long. Sooner or later, facts bubble up to the surface with an uncanny ability to grab people’s attention in spite of themselves.”
1Although these articles were circulated a couple of years ago, the questions posed and answers proposed are still valid.
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Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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