Every time there is an article about working women, someone quotes “research” that says women would all like to stay home if they could. The article proceeds to talk about how women want flexibility in their jobs so they can have a life. The NYT article on Coveting not a corner office but time at home mirrors this emphas
The underlying message? Women don’t have ambition. They don’t like to work. Work and success are less important than life/family. And while they haven’t asked men the same question, the assumption is that men feel differently.
But here’s the reality. Just like men, women do have ambition. In droves. When Catalyst surveyed MBA women in their study Does Doing All the Right Things Really Get Women Ahead, women and men were represented close to equal in all the different categories including Climbers (26% and 25% respectively). They also found that women “aren’t intentionally seeking slower career tracks.”
And they like to work. In our study of 118 college-educated women, we found that fully 75% liked to work and wanted to work. Only 3 (less than 1%!) categorically said no they didn’t want to work. The NYT article suggests this too – the women profiled all figured out ways to keep working despite life responsibilities.
Work –our passion, our vocation, our métier, is important. It enables us to do other things. It enables us to fulfill ourselves beyond a single, pre-determined and single role (e.g. I am a mother, or a wife, or a caretaker, insert label here). It enables us to support our families and gives us financial security in an insecure world.
So, instead of buying in to these underlying assumptions and allowing them to influence our choices, how about we reframe them to something more freeing:
1) Women are ambitious – You just need to figure out how to do it in a way that serves you
2) Women do like to work. Your career is important.
3) Success at work is important. Life and family are also important. These are not mutually exclusive for men or working women. Why do we think they are for mothers?
If we reframe the assumptions, what happens? – When we acknowledge we want to work and love our careers, we can then figure out how to make it work. In the article, when the mother asked to work from home, and sought extended daycare from her children’s school, she changed the system for the better for other working families. This is what happens when we each figure out how to make work work. The world changes because we ask it to.