Thursday, November 20, 2014

Does "the world" choose our career or do we?

Do you remember being asked throughout your childhood, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It was question that frequented my childhood. In kindergarten my teacher had our class draw pictures of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I have very little recollection of this experience, but upon graduating elementary my kindergarten teacher delivered those pictures to us. I wanted to be a ballerina, along with every other girl in my class. Almost all the boys had pictures of firefighters. So what happened to all those ballerinas and firefighters? And at the time, why didn't I choose to be something else? 

One of the greatest determinants of career choice and aspirations is the way we are socialized, or the social norms which make up our world. Amongst male and female undergraduate students of the Latter-day Saint faith we find that ideals of the future impact career choice and aspirations today. That makes sense though right? We set goals and make plans that reflect those goals. Before diving into that discussion let’s look at some of the “future ideals” these undergraduates have listed.

When asked about career plans, few students jump into a discussion about family. Most were influenced by talents developed, experiences had, or advice given from parents, friends, and teachers. However, as soon as family or balancing work and home life is brought into question, well, here are a few anonymous responses:

 “I plan to work part-time mid-day so that I can be home with my family when they awake and so we can have dinner.”-Female student

“Hard, but to be honest I haven’t thought much about details yet.” –Male student

This is a pattern, in general male students haven’t thought too much about the details of family life. All they have decided is that it will be a part of their future. On the other hand, female students have generally chosen career paths that will allow for adjustments such as part-time work in order to accommodate raising a family. These tendencies include single females.

Not too many of them consider this future:

Like all studies these interviews and surveys found a few outliers (people who didn’t follow the general trends).

A young mother about to finish her undergraduate degree expressed frustration with “the world’s” view on things. She said, “I have chosen to stay home with my son because I know it's what is right, even though many people look down on it. There is a lot of pressure in the U.S. for women to seek after careers and let other people raise their children, but I know that what is best for my child is for me to be at home with him.”

Another phenomenon present in the discussion with students was that several minority cultured women felt particularly motivated to excel and be an example for the youth of their minority group.

Why is this important?

The big decisions made that set up the path of a person’s life are being made to accommodate a life of patriarchal ideals. That means that while a great part of the world is working toward equality between men and women, these students are heading in the opposite direction.

If we look at the benefits of our progress to eliminate gender inequality so far we can see the need to continue. Stephanie Coontz of the New York Times explains,

“Domestic violence rates have been halved since 1993, while rapes and sexual assaults against women have fallen by 70 percent in that time. In recent decades, husbands have doubled their share of housework and tripled their share of child care. And this change is not confined to highly educated men.”

Promotion of gender equality in the home will have a large effect on gender equality in education and the work place. To promote equality in the home Megan Blandford comments,

Australian Institute of Family Studies showed that regardless of whether women stay home, work part-time or full-time, they still take on a significantly greater load of housework and childcare than men…I believe that in order for the wider world to further progress gender equality we need to first change what happens behind closed doors.

Just as the educational gender gap has turned in favor of women as opposed to men there is a reason for women in the work place. Annie-Marie Slaughter explains,

“Losing smart and motivated women not only diminishes a company’s talent pool; it also reduces the return on its investment in training and mentoring. In trying to address these issues, some firms are finding out that women’s ways of working may just be better ways of working, for employees and clients alike.”

As we look to close the gender gap in all aspects of life, both social and private, we see a richer future. Many female students understand housework and childcare to be their responsibility. Others choose it out of preference. Ultimately, the decision lies with every individual and or couple. In her article, 6 Tools for Sharing Chores and Childcare with Your PartnerKristin Maschka shares from Dr. Tamar Kremer-Sadlik,

a woman's satisfaction is not about an equal amount of labor but that there is a sense of coordination and shared goal of doing something for the family, of working as a team, even if the two of them are not doing exactly the same amount.

To learn more about what you can do, visit the websites listed at the bottom of this post.


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