Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Taming of the True: A Qualitative Sampling of Gender, Marriage, and Career

Literature on the relationship between gender, marriage, and career trajectory typically focuses on the persistence of traditional gender roles within the home. Burns et al. (2000) find that though egalitarian notions of equality in the home may exist between couples in larger numbers than previously reported, the actual reality of power and work distribution in the home is far more traditional or conservative than these notions would imply. Similarly, recent features in the New York Times and the Atlantic have focused on the issues couples face when they attempt to fully share the burdens and work load a marriage or relationship necessitates. These problems affect both the ultra-wealthy and privileged as well as, quite obviously, the less-advantaged of our society (Slaughter 2012; Belkin 2008). With these difficulties in mind, I conducted a small-sample, qualitative survey of students at Brigham Young University to try and assess the relationship between career, gender, and marriage. The results, although not capable of indicating large-scale population trends for a number of significant reasons, are important to the discussion if only because they both confirm and challenge current research on these complicated relationships. Overwhelmingly respondents reported egalitarian attitudes as a prerequisite characteristic in a prospective spouse, as well as equal or greater interest, preparedness, and focus on career path in concordance or above familial responsibilities than the (few) male respondents, as well as the "conventional wisdom" on the subject. The primary portions of the survey I will focus on include career flexibility among currently married respondents, anticipated gender dynamics in a potential marriage, and the contrast in sentiments surrounding possible children.
Among the 12 respondents, four were married (not necessarily to one another, as well). Three were women and one was male. None had children, although all anticipated and were planning for future children. Out of the four, the male respondent and one female respondent reported their plans and career goals changing after marriage; the other two reported that their plans had not changed either due to prior commitment not to change career goals due to marital pressures. Of the four respondents, two (both women) reported that they were the primary supporters of their family and that this was the anticipated structure for the foreseeable future. In response to a question concerning whether or not the respondent felt their career goals were more than, less than, or equally flexible compared to their spouses, one woman responded equally flexible, one man responded more flexible, and the other two women reported that their career paths and goals were less flexible. Both women who responded that their career goals were less flexible were the same two who had reported that they were the primary supporter of the family. These findings were surprising as they reflected not only the fact that prior egalitarian notions didn't hold out (because, in that view, both spouses would have equally flexible career options), but that the female respondents were the ones who were locked into a career (either through pre-planned intent or consequence).

Of the eight single or engaged respondents, I asked a question which aimed at gauging anticipated gender role dynamics within a relationship. Of the eight respondents, anticipated or at least expected marriage in their foreseeable future. Seven women and one male comprise the respondent sample. The question asked who the respondent felt would feel the effects most of future changes within the household, either due to career changes or children. Two female respondents and our one male respondent reported that they anticipated equal share of potential burdens or necessary changes within the home. However, both female respondents reported in other sections of the survey conflicting views, with one responding:

"I’ll only work if my family absolutely needs the money. I feel like it is necessary for the family’s welfare for a parent to stay home with children and I hope that would be me. I might also drop out of college if it was what was needed for my family."

The other responded:

"I would expect whomever I marry to support my ambitions in both school and career... I think my marriage would be more or less contingent on finding someone who understood and supported my ambitions. I don’t think I would marry otherwise."
These two counterpoints are intriguing if only because they underlie the complexity of what consists of equal sharing of burdens within a household and marriage. To add to this complexity is the fact that the second sampled response was the only response which indicated that the respondent has planned for future equality in the home. All other female respondents reported that they were expecting to take time off of work or to completely drop a career in the workplace due to changes within the home, or that, at the very least, changes within the home were more likely to affect them than their spouses. These answers are striking in comparison to answers given in response to a battery of questions based on current academic goals, plans, and expectations about the near future. Almost all respondents were deeply committed to their academic major, could thoughtfully explain prior academic major switches, and valued intellectual and personal fulfillment as the main reasoning behind academic and career goals. Even respondents who explained their contentment with their academic major along economic terms indicated that this coincided with the ability to pursue alternate, more fulfilling career options in other fields. Thus the responses indicating greater anticipation of leaving the workforce or giving up academic prospects are not deeply tied to academic disaffection or lack of intellectual commitment, but perhaps cultural or experiential expectations. This all coincides with the most striking result from the small survey: children.

All of our respondents reported both wanting and anticipating children (although a few female respondents reported that they'd long been averse or ambivalent to the idea and were just warming up to the possibility). Though our representative population is far from equal, it is interesting to me that both male respondents, one married and one single, stated that their anticipation of having children was the single most important factor in their career and academic trajectories. One respondent indicated significant ambivalence and even dissatisfaction with their academic major, while the other indicated that although he was satisfied and even excited by his major, his decision to pursue his major was predicated on his future family. In contrast, six of the ten female respondents, married, single, or engaged, were explicit about current planning for children. One respondent candidly responded:

"Yes, I plan on having children. The kind of job I plan on doing is very affected by my desire to stay at home and raise them. It's hard to be in university and admittedly say that its very likely that I won't use my education for a while as my children are growing up but they will be worth any sacrifice."

This response is contrasted with the following:
"As of right now, children play very little part in my planning for the future. I don’t think children will be a big concern for a few more years."
"In all, children and having children don’t play a huge part in planning for my future. In fact, it’s a very small part of my plans."

"Well, if I had them, they’d be one of the biggest factors in many of my future choices… To a large degree, planning for my future would become planning for their future."

"They’ll be part of [planning for the future]."

These last two responses are significant in that they are specifically hypothetical; "if I had them",
"they’ll be", "would become" all indicating a disconnect from current academic plans for future children.
One other respondent, the same who indicated that she was currently planning for equality in the home, had this to say about how large a part children play in planning for the future:

"A big part – I think children could dictate future locations and careers, in terms of ensuring my children have access to good schools and accessibility to both of their parents. This is a very broad question, but what I can say now is that I expect both myself and my spouse to orient our jobs around raising children. That doesn’t mean one of us wouldn’t work at all, or even that we wouldn’t both work full time, but just that our trajectory could be jointly adapted and shaped to fit the development of our children. That said, I think this is far less difficult than it is made out to be and in fact allows for an incredibly broad range of careers for both sexes, contrary to popular belief."

This range of responses from the female population of the sample is significant in my mind as it shows not only a dichotomous relationship between those who choose to have children in lieu of careers or careers in lieu of children, but a variegated experience. The respondents who report the prospect of children having an insignificant impact on their current planning accede to the notion that in the future perhaps it will be a larger question. Likewise, those who plan now for future children acknowledge that they will pursue careers either during or following the raising of their children.

In short, though this qualitative sample has quite a number of drawbacks in terms of sample size, demographic representation, and adequate variables to account for lack of descriptive explanations, it shows an interesting cross-cut of a contemporary group of students at Brigham Young University. Again, the evidence is interesting in itself as it both challenges and reinscribes current research and commonly held-assumptions concerning marriage, gender, and careers, all of which lacks the nuance of actual experience and personal testimony.

Survey Sample characteristics:

Total Population: 12

Females: 10
Males: 2
Married: 4
Single: 6
Engaged: 2

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Perceived Pay Gap

Perceived Views On Future Jobs and Income

I set out to better understand the perceived views of men and women on their future income and jobs. A study done by Judy Goldberg Dey and Catherine Hill presented results that showed there is an apparent pay gap between men and women. They found this pay gap was apparent right after men and women graduated from college and the pay gap worsened over time (Dey and Hill). Knowing that a pay gap existed I sought out to understand if this pay gap was already realized before men and women gained a job in their chosen area of profession.


Because there does exist a pay gap between men and women I hypothesize that a pay gap will exist in the perceived incomes for men and women.


I created a 4-question survey in order to see if men and women differed on their answers about future careers and income. The survey was given to 22 college students. Out of the 22 students that took the survey 10 were female and 12 were male. The age range of those who took the survey was no less than 18 and no greater than 34. In order to get more relevant results a control was put in place to survey those with similar career paths. There were two main career paths that were controlled for: School Teacher and Physical Sciences. Because the surveyed population is largely of the LDS faith the results have good internal validity but weak external validity.


To get the results I took the averages of all of the answers for both men and female. The results showed for both careers on average men had a higher perceived income than women. The biggest gap was between men and women in the teaching profession. Having the biggest gap in teacher income was a surprise to me. These results could go in line with the idea that socialization of a pay gap affects the perceived incomes of men and women. Because there is a difference in men and women’s perceived income this could also influence the accepting of different pay for men and women right out of college. Since women on average have a lower perceived starting income than men it adds to the problem of women accepting lower pay for being just as qualified for a job as a male. I feel that in order to erase the pay gap there needs to be a bigger focus on helping women see that they can make more money that what they feel is acceptable right out of college. As women do this their view of how much is an acceptable starting income will start to align more along with what men feel is acceptable. 

Career Paths and Gender at BYU

         Career plans for women have greatly altered over the last 50 years or so. There is much research to confirm, however, that despite gains in equality for women in the workplace, there are still disproportionate numbers in education and other stereotypically female-dominated areas, whereas men still tend to dominate stereotypically masculine career fields. And men still earn more, even after allowing for extra hours on the job, education, career choice, and the like. Despite these inequalities educated women still strive to accomplish their careers. College students at Brigham Young University also strive for this success. Being instructed from a young age, however, that women are the primary nurturers and men are to provide, their career plans and plans to enter the workforce in the first place may provide insight as to how they plan on dealing with workplace issues even before they enter the workforce.
         Twenty Brigham Young University undergraduate students (10 female, 10 male) were asked about their post-graduation plans, social pressures or expectations that already have, as well as compensation they hope to receive and what role they expect their spouse to have. One woman was married, and one man and one woman were involved in a serious relationship.  Most were juniors and seniors, with two of the men being sophomores. The sample is small and may not be completely representative. It is remarkable, however, to see such universal answers given in response to a number of the questions. 
         It was surprising to find, for example, that without exception, when asked about future career plans each woman mentioned a family. When asked about how they would balance their career with other aspects of life they all stated that they would stay at home with their children, unless circumstances required or permitted that they work while they were at school. They mentioned among expectations for a spouse that he would bring in the majority of the income. Men, on the other hand, mentioned that while their wives could work if they wanted, their main focus would be on the children, with one participant adding, “…I suppose that should be my focus, too.”
         Another interesting finding of the interviews was the fact that nearly across the board men gave much more detailed career trajectories, suggesting back-up plans, number of years in the field before they would seek managerial positions, or why they liked their particular trajectory.  Their compensation expectations were also distinct from that of the women interviewed. While the men, on average, expected to receive a starting salary of $60,000, with ending salaries being much higher, the women either had not thought about it at all or expected around $40,000. Only two women mentioned a starting salary of $60,000, with one of them adding that this was a hopeful estimate and it was expected that there would be no raise for the duration of her career.
         While the women had not thought much about their future salaries, what was more surprising was how little they seemed to have actually thought about a future career, in comparison to how much men had thought about it. Three mentioned that they were only going to school in case something happened to where their husbands could not provide for some reason or another. There is the possibility that women seemed more unsure about their future careers due to the way in which they verbally reported their future plans. They would often use words and phrases like “probably,” and “I don’t know,” whereas the men were much more definite about what they were doing. This could have led to the impression that the women were less certain.  At the conclusion of one interview, however, one woman asserted that “for girls you just have to have a kind of go-with-the-flow plan.”
         While for the most part when asked about social pressures or expectations that they felt had shaped their particular career paths, the women answered that it was just something they wanted to do, there were a couple (incidentally, those expecting higher starting salaries) that indicated that people expect women to be moms and their husbands to be the breadwinners. One of these two respondents noted that if she knew she weren’t going to “get married till …35” she would have gone to medical school. To complement this idea, one man said that there are other things he would rather do, but they would only pay about $40,000 and he couldn’t really do that.
         Two males and one female that participated planned on becoming physical therapists. One male will because he’s interested in it and because it’s a family friendly job, while the other attributes his interest in it to the pressure of “finding a well-paying job.” The female noted that it’s a better option for a woman (mother) than is medical school. Her expected starting salary is between $50,000 and $60,000 (if she’s lucky), with no increase. The men, on the other hand, expect between $60,000 and $90,000 starting, with lots of room to grow. This could of course either be due to the high expectations of the males, or the low expectations of the female.
         This gap in expected pay is interesting. Despite our supposed 21st century egalitarian society, women are still likely to earn less than men. Among never-married, childless 22- to 30-year-old metropolitan-area workers with the same educational credentials, males out-earn females in every category. Women are less likely to ask for a raise, and also less likely to be given one from a male superior. And if the women do have children, the gap between their salaries and men’s widens even further, sometimes because part-time employment is undertaken to accommodate family life, and sometimes for no reason at all.  Meanwhile, among men, fatherhood increases earnings.
         In this particular group of students interviewed, many were involved in majors that are stereotypically male- or female-dominated. According to an article by Dey and Hill, however, the choice of major is not necessarily the “full story.” Even among men and women in the same major, a pay gap is found one year after graduation. In education (a female-dominated major), for example, women earn 95 percent as much as their male colleagues. In biological sciences (a mixed-gender major), women earn only 75 percent as much as men. Mathematics (a male-dominated major) leaves women earning 76 percent as much as men earn.
         What is troublesome about these results is not necessarily that the women interviewed seem to have less direction than the men regarding careers, but that the lack of certainty seems to be based on the assumption that they will one day have a family. Their choices should not necessarily be criticized either. According to “The Hill,” “High-achieving women are forgoing families at rates not observed among high-achieving men.” So while these BYU students may or may not have been socialized to feel that they need to conform their professional pursuits to meet the constraints of motherhood, the reality of the workplace is that working mothers are discriminated against in the form of pay, promotions, and even in being considered for the job in the first place.  This is an important form of gender inequity.
         The presumption of a future lifestyle of which one can never be certain seems to be the guiding light of those interviewed here. While there is nothing wrong with planning for the future, it seemed that many were not taking into account current realities, but rather they were doing things that were seen socially as conducive to raising a family, and this differed a huge amount according to gender. Whether the gender differences were simply based on individual interests, or whether there really were social factors that influenced their choices would have to be studied more extensively.

Dey, Judy Goldberg, and Catherine Hill. "Behind the Pay Gap."  AAUW Educational Foundation. Washington, DC (2007): 2-41.

Budig, Michelle. "Parenthood exacerbates the gender pay gap." The Hill’s Congress Blog. N.p., 30 2012. Web. 12 Nov 2012. <>.

Stephanie Coontz. "The Myth of Male Decline." New York Times Sunday Review [New York City] 29 September 2012, n. pag. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. <>.

“The Family: A proclamation to the world.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 23 Sept. 1995. 

Gender and Career

          What effect do gender roles have on men and women’s views in the workforce? I conducted a three question survey where I focused on three different areas of how the workforce influences opinion of both male and female college students. I looked at potential career plans post education, self evaluation of societal influence in regards to career choice, and priorities when considering career choices. Some of the data supported the research read in class about societal influence, whereas other parts of the data didn’t support other research discussed in class.
The three question survey was given to twenty college students. Although many of the participants were of the LDS faith, not all of them attended Brigham Young University. Ten of the students were male and ten were female. The following questions were asked: Does your future include a career in the work force of any kind after your time in school? On a scale of 1-5, how influential do you feel social expectations were in forming your career choice or absence of career choice (5 being the most influential)? List the following in order of importance when considering your career choice: income, family time, location, and vacation time. 

Careers in the Future

The first question had the most surprising results. Out of ten men, 8 stated that their future included a career in the workforce. Two of them stated that they were unsure and none answered no. For women, ten out of ten stated that their future included a career in the workforce after their time in school. The results were surprising on the men’s side of the data because of the implications that it gives about what men see in their futures. 20% were unsure if a career was an option for them. Why are these results surprising? Through various socializing agents such as family, religion, and the media, people have been socialized into believing that in order to have a stable life, one must be financially stable as well. Being financially stable requires having a career of some sort. A Proclamation to the World defines men and fathers as being, “...responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families” (Hinckley, 1995). That 20% of men in this study are unsure if they are going to have a career in their futures goes against what people have learned through socialization. This is seen as a negative thing in men because it shows the possibility that they may not be providers.

Societal Expectations

The next question involved more of a reflection on how each participant felt social expectations had affected their career plans. On a 5 point scale, the men averaged out to 2.4 and the women averaged out to 2.7. The difference wasn’t as large as I was anticipating, but there is still a .3 difference in how men and women feel that social expectations affect their career plans. The women’s mean may be higher because there has been more of societal definition of where the woman’s place should be compared to men. Class readings show that the way women behave correlates with how capable they are seen. For example, women that are seen as too feminine or not feminine enough are seen as less capable. This is known as the Double Bind principle (Jamieson, 1995). How the media influences how much femininity is the right amount for women, women are going to see themselves in a particular perspective, which will influence how competent they are seen by others, especially in the workplace. For example, female surgeons aren’t typically seen as very feminine or very masculine. In this way, the results show that women more than men feel like social expectations have in some way influenced their career choices.


The last item on the survey asked to prioritize income, family time, location, and vacation time in relation to career choice. For the men, the order was: family time, income, location and vacation. For the women, there were more conflicting results. Family time was the most important, but location was tied for being most important on the second and third priority, with income following closely behind in each category. Vacation time was last on the list, like the men. What I found the most interesting from these results was by how many votes each priority won its place by. For the men, the majority was 60% for family time being the top priority. However, for women, 80% of the participants stated that this was the top priority. The results of this has some implications about gender roles. It reinforces the traditional thought that women are going to make their children their first priority, especially within the workforce. The traditional thought of a woman’s place needing to be in the home seems to have some influence on the priorities of the majority of women. Women are very aware of the statement they are making when they join the workforce, and it’s interesting to see that their top priority is still being with their families.

The Big Picture

          This survey was able to give further insight on how college students see their futures and their careers. This relates to gender and politics because the same principles that apply to women entering the workforce also apply to women entering the political arena. Just how young girls are influenced to join the work force by exposure of other women succeeding in it, they are also influenced to join politics through this role model effect (Campbell and Wolbrecht, 2006). While some of the data was not expected, it led to potential explanations as to why men and women behave differently. Overall, the data supported the idea that women feel that societal expectations has played more of a factor in choosing their careers than men and a great amount still feel like family time is the most important priority when looking at a career.


Hinckley, Gordon B. 1995. A Proclamation to the World.
          (Accessed: November 15, 2012).
Create a Graph. NCES.  (Accessed: November 15, 2012).
Jamieson, Kathleen Hall. 1995. Beyond the Double Bind: Women and leadership 

          (Accessed: November 15, 2012).
Campbell, David E., and Christina Wolbrecht. 2006. See Jane Run: Women politicians as role models for adolescents. Journal of Politics
           (Accessed: November 15, 2012).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Two Presidents, Two Images

Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica’s first female president elected in 2010, has an image to uphold to an international audience. Barack Obama, the first African American president of the United States also has millions watching his every move. How these politicians are portrayed in the media shapes public opinion, with gender being an incredibly influential factor for Chinchilla.


The media reports her popularity among all economic and social classes of women. Single mother Heizel Arias voted in prison and spoke highly of Chinchilla by stating, "I voted for Laura Chinchilla because she has promised to fight for women...She was the only one who visited us and told us her plans and I believe in her." (Jimenez, 2010). The media has portrayed Chinchilla as the national spokesperson and advocate for women’s rights in Costa Rica. Many news articles focus discussion on Chinchilla’s stance on traditional women’s issues such as education, abortion, and religion. Articles included the fact that she was a wife and a mother of a teenage son as well (Padgett, 2010). Her personal life as a wife, mother, and essentially as a woman intertwines heavily with how media reports on her presidential success.

One particular article attributes Chinchilla’s declining approval rate within the last two years to the lack of strong direct leadership (Miguel, 2012). As of August, 53% of Costa Ricans held an unfavorable view of her administration. Author Veronique de Miguel goes on to elaborate what the source of the problem is by stating, “Despite this, there are not direct accusations of corruption for Chinchilla herself, and although considered ‘honest’, she is also thought of as a weak President who is not able to impose herself to her Government team” (Miguel, 2012). Gender undertones are extensively implied in this article, attributing the lack of stereotypical masculine characteristics of Chinchilla to the decrease of success in the Costa Rican government. Stereotypical masculine characteristics include being a strong leader, dependable, and able to get any job done. The media will be significantly more criticizing when women don’t succeed in politics than men. Although honesty has been traditionally seen as a gender neutral characteristic, in this article it is seen as a feminine one and plays into all of the other masculine qualities Chinchilla seems to be lacking.
The media in American is very partisan either in praising Obama or being negative towards him. Whatever the political beliefs of different news sources are of the American president, there is a constant in how the public views him. Obama is seen as powerful and a leader of government. What he does with that power, however, is debated among different sources of the media. He provides an image of the American and many people have found that they can relate to the president in one way or another. With this descriptive representation, it is difficult to find that he lacks the masculine characteristics needed to be a strong political figure. There is less focus on Obama’s family and personal life in comparison to Chinchilla and this reflects the gender socialization of how men are the ones that are supposed to provide for the family, and when women play that role as well, it’s more difficult for them to balance their family life.


Although many of the articles did discuss her involvement in women’s issues and talked about her family life, articles talking solely on Chinchilla’s fashion choices were scarce. In the case of this Costa Rican president, many articles tended to focus on the issues her government was facing and how she was managing the country. This was an unexpected difference between how American politicians have been reported. In the United States, fashion among politicians regardless of gender has always been extensively written about. This may be due to cultural differences and how the importance of fashion in general is viewed among different countries.
There has been a significant amount of articles written about the American president’s wardrobe and fashion choices. Many articles describe how power is associated with his dark tailored suits and ironed white collars. The media directly relates the correlation between looking professional and being capable and able to deliver. Where women have more of a variety of fashion decisions they can make on how they can look more or less professional, there is more of a standard look for men. A man in a suit signifies importance and dedication, someone that should be taken seriously. Media coverage of President Obama’s fashion choices is another venue for Obama’s image to be shaped by the general public. BEcause Chinchilla doesn’t have as much coverage on her attire, she doesn’t have that venue to boost her public image.

Power House:

In 2011, Obama was titled as the number one most powerful person in the world according to Forbes (Forbes, 2011). Chinchilla was listed as number 86 on the list of Power Women (Forbes, 201). Setting aside other factors such as political influence and international power, the list titles themselves have implications about gender. On Obama’s page, it has his income listed in bold whereas no income is listed on Chinchilla’s profile. People often associate power with money and associate that as being a primarily male’s realm. Stating how much one makes almost places a value to how much they have contributed or how intellectual and hardworking they are. Because Obama has his income listed, this is sending a message about how strong of a leader he is. On his profile page, it only lists his accomplishments as well. On Chinchilla’s profile page, it listed many reasons of how her country was suffering, as well as her accomplishments. Perhaps Obama’s description was significantly positive because men are seen as being able and capable and in order to be the most powerful person in the world, you need to have those characteristics.
The media influences public opinion of political leaders of different genders. Through the focus on distinct issues of both genders, implications are made about that person’s gender and the competence they have to lead a government. For President Obama, regardless of what he chooses to do with his power, he still has the characteristics to lead his government. Chinchilla, on the other hand, is struggling with the media’s portrayal of her ability to lead her government, with gender undertones being a factor in her criticism.


Jimenez, Marianela. 2010. Laura Chinchilla: Costa Rica elects 1st woman president in landslide. Huffington Post.

Padgett, Tim. 2010. Costa Rica’s generational and gender changes. TIME.

De Miguel, Veronique. 2010. Laura Chinchilla: Is honesty enough for Costa Rica? Voxxi November 8, 2012).

Obama, Barack. 2011. World’s most powerful people. Forbes. (accessed: November 8, 2012).

Chinchilla, Laura. 2011. World’s most powerful women. Forbes. (accessed: November 8, 2012).