I wrote “I am Woman, hear me whine” to riff off of a story about law firms’ difficulty in retaining black lawyers. I noted the role affirmative action has to play, but also suggested, based on my 20 years out of date experience at a big law firm, that women and minority attorneys might feel too entitled to work as hard as the boring old white guys. Comments quickly started swirling around glass ceilings and feminine competence. I asserted, without citing to data, that many of the most educated women opt out of the corporate rat race. Carrie Lukas agrees, and says that’s not a bad thing:
What about women working in the private sector? More than 40 years after Betty Friedan urged women to exchange their aprons for business suits, by many measures, women’s progress in the workforce has stalled. Certainly today more women work and hold more prestigious jobs than ever before: as of 2002, women accounted for 46.5 percent of the workforce and held more than half of managerial and professional specialty jobs. Yet few women make it to the very top of the business world. According to the nonprofit research institute Catalyst, just eight Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs, and women account for just 5.2 percent of those companies’ top earners.
Why is this? Liberal feminist groups, like the National Organization for Women (NOW), tend to insist that sexism and discrimination are the primary cause. Yet many individual women recognize that their choices — particularly the choices they make once they have children — make the difference.
A recent Newsweek cover story highlighted how many women who are best positioned to break through the proverbial glass ceiling willingly downshift their careers after having children. A Harvard Business Review survey of midcareer women with graduate degrees or college degrees with honors found that more than one-third had taken extended time off from work, with the average break lasting more than two years. Surveys have shown that women evaluating job opportunities place a lower value on pay than men do, focusing more on job characteristics like flexibility and personal fulfillment.
That’s good news. If women’s different choices and preferences explain the paucity of women in the Fortune 500, then it’s not a problem that needs to be solved. Many women sincerely prefer lives dedicated to raising their families over high-flying careers, and we should respect their choices.
You can read the rest here. It certainly holds true for the women I know, myself included.