Executive Women and the Myth of Having It All

This article from 2002 describes the way things were in the 1990s. It is much worse now.

Women: Just focus on getting married. Forget about the rest.

The article ends, naturally, with a long list of demands that will supposedly make it possible to combine motherhood with a demanding career. Rather than understanding the implications of the whole content of the article — that a woman who is out of the house 13 hours a day to work cannot serve as a mother in any meaningful capacity, or indeed have the time or energy to manage to get married in the first place — instead, the whole world must change so that women can get their Feminist merit badge. Actually, even if all these requests were met, it would still be impossible; and then we would have a long list of new demands.

This is why Matriarchy Does Not Exist. For men, the problem and solution are obvious. Women can’t connect the dots — even dots as obvious as this. Even when they break down in tears after dropping off their infants at daycare each morning. Even when the title of the damn book is: Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children.

What women do is, they Do What They Are Told. They were told to be “strong, independent” careerist women, so that is what they try to do, even though it makes no sense. This is why I say: Tell the Bitches What To Do. You have to displace what they are being told by whatever authority figures they have aligned themselves with, commonly from media, schools, corporations and governments.

Instead, the article should be taken as definitive proof that women of the upper-middle classes, who have options, should opt to be a stay-at-home Wife and Mother. For the most part, the natural husbands for women of the upper-middle class are men of the upper-middle class. So, these women already will normally marry men who are completely capable of supporting a single-income household. It’s true that a man may wish to marry a better-looking or otherwise charming woman of a lower socioeconomic stratum. However, when looking for a wife, a man must consider who will be the mother of his children — and the women of the upper-middle class know how to raise their children well, in the manner to which such a man is accustomed. They have high standards, and self-discipline. This is why these men often marry the 7/10 girl from a better family. (Unfortunately, these women today are using their high standards and self-discipline to, effectively, take the jobs of their brothers, leaving them not only with no time or energy, but also, nobody to marry.)

The statistics in this article were disturbing even to me. This was 2002, when about 92% of White women eventually married. If we are coming into an environment where perhaps only 50% of women will marry at all, then what will the statistics be for careerist upper-income women? Maybe 20%.

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There is a secret out there—a painful, well-kept secret: At midlife, between a third and a half of all successful career women in the United States do not have children. In fact, 33% of such women (business executives, doctors, lawyers, academics, and the like) in the 41-to-55 age bracket are childless—and that figure rises to 42% in corporate America. These women have not chosen to remain childless. The vast majority, in fact, yearn for children. Indeed, some have gone to extraordinary lengths to bring a baby into their lives. They subject themselves to complex medical procedures, shell out tens of thousands of dollars, and derail their careers—mostly to no avail, because these efforts come too late. In the words of one senior manager, the typical high-achieving woman childless at midlife has not made a choice but a “creeping nonchoice.”

Why has the age-old business of having babies become so difficult for today’s high-achieving women? In January 2001, in partnership with the market research company Harris Interactive and the National Parenting Association, I conducted a nationwide survey designed to explore the professional and private lives of highly educated, high-earning women. The survey results are featured in my new book, Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children.

In this survey, I target the top 10% of women—measured in terms of earning power—and focus on two age groups: an older generation, ages 41 to 55, and their younger peers, ages 28 to 40, as defined for survey purposes. I distinguish between high achievers (those who are earning more than $55,000 in the younger group, $65,000 in the older one) and ultra-achievers (those who are earning more than $100,000). I include a sample of high-potential women—highly qualified women who have left their careers, mainly for family reasons. In addition, I include a small sample of men.

The findings are startling—and troubling. They make it clear that, for many women, the brutal demands of ambitious careers, the asymmetries of male-female relationships, and the difficulties of bearing children late in life conspire to crowd out the possibility of having children. In this article, I lay out the issues underlying this state of affairs, identify the heavy costs involved, and suggest some remedies, however preliminary and modest. The facts and figures I relate are bleak. But I think that they can also be liberating, if they spur action. My hope is that this information will generate workplace policies that recognize the huge costs to businesses of losing highly educated women when they start their families. I also hope that it will galvanize young women to make newly urgent demands of their partners, employers, and policy makers and thus create more generous life choices for themselves.

When it comes to career and fatherhood, high-achieving men don’t have to deal with difficult trade-offs: 79% of the men I surveyed report wanting children—and 75% have them. The research shows that, generally speaking, the more successful the man, the more likely he will find a spouse and become a father. The opposite holds true for women, and the disparity is particularly striking among corporate ultra-achievers. In fact, 49% of these women are childless. But a mere 19% of their male colleagues are. These figures underscore the depth and scope of the persisting, painful inequities between the sexes. Women face all the challenges that men do in working long hours and withstanding the up-or-out pressures of high-altitude careers. But they also face challenges all their own.

Let’s start with the fact that professional women find it challenging even to be married—for most, a necessary precondition for childbearing. Only 60% of high-achieving women in the older age group are married, and this figure falls to 57% in corporate America. By contrast, 76% of older men are married, and this figure rises to 83% among ultra-achievers.

Consider Tamara Adler, 43, a former managing director of Deutsche Bank in London. She gave her take on these disturbing realities when I interviewed her for the study. Adler was the bank’s most senior woman, and her highly successful career had left no room for family. She mentioned the obvious reasons—long hours and travel—but she also spoke eloquently about how ambitious careers discriminate against women: “In the rarified upper reaches of high-altitude careers where the air is thin…men have a much easier time finding oxygen. They find oxygen in the form of younger, less driven women who will coddle their egos.” She went on to conclude, “The hard fact is that most successful men are not interested in acquiring an ambitious peer as a partner.”

It’s a conclusion backed up by my data: Only 39% of high-achieving men are married to women who are employed full time, and 40% of these spouses earn less than $35,000 a year. Meanwhile, nine out of ten married women in the high-achieving category have husbands who are employed full time or self-employed, and a quarter are married to men who earn more than $100,000 a year. Clearly, successful women professionals have slim pickings in the marriage department—particularly as they age. Professional men seeking to marry typically reach into a large pool of younger women, while professional women are limited to a shrinking pool of eligible peers. According to U. S. Census Bureau data, at age 28 there are four college-educated, single men for every three college-educated, single women. A decade later, the situation is radically changed. At age 38, there is one man for every three women.

Published by proprietor

Happily married, with children.

2 thoughts on “Executive Women and the Myth of Having It All

  1. I would not be surprised if a large number of these “childless” corporate gals actually did have children but elected to “sacrifice” them (i.e. through abortion) so as not to derail their career ambitions.

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  2. “The hard fact is that most successful self-respexting men are not interested in acquiring an ambitious peer as a partner.”

    FIFY, and just so. Self-respecting men with life missions want helpmeets as wives, not competitors who seek to usurp their positions as heads of their own marriages and households. That’s the paradox for careerist women: their own egos demand that they usurp a husband’s position of headship, yet have no respect for any husband who would let them do so.

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