Uber-networking event, part 2

I had a good day today at the uber-networking event. Got a little more depth in one of the panels I attended, which was on (and by) high-achieving women. They shared a bit about their life trajectories and the choices that got them there, with a particular emphasis on work/family balance issues. Some of the women said that they'd decided not to have kids or even partners because they didn't feel that they could have the career success they wanted and also have a family. Others seemed to have been able to have both, but generally that was because of cooperative partners. One woman, for instance, got on the path that led to her being a college president because her husband lost his job and stayed home with their toddlers for three years.

There was a real emphasis in the panel on personal choices. Several panelists reiterated the idea that what's most important is you doing what's right for you. While I don't disagree with that, I was glad when a few women noted the kinds of political and structural issues that can constrain our choices. One panelist pointed out that women make up half of those hired at law firms, but only 17% of law partners are women--so there's something going on there (her point was that firms need to do a better job of making it possible for people to have law careers and families).

The group did talk a bit about the fact that these kinds of challenges need to be ones that men are facing, too. At one point in the panel, the group turned to a twenty-something guy who was in the room and asked him how he'd feel if his wife made more money than he did. The idea in asking him was, I think, that they wanted corroboration for their contention that things are much better now, that the younger generation doesn't have the same hang ups that older generations had about empowered women. Sadly, 20-something guy said that he and his friends would feel that their masculinity was being undermined if their wives made more, and that they'd feel that they were letting their families down. I think it's easy to be overly optimistic about how much our attitudes about gender have changed, but this guy showed that patriarchal notions of men's and women's roles are still hanging in there.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, my invitation must have gotten lost in the deluge of Christmas catalogs I received this year.

My wife does make more money than I do, but it hasn't made her happier. For my own part, all that fact has done is validate the choice I made not to chase the corporate brass ring.

Happy New Year,
Blogless Reader

Anonymous said...

You have to take into consideration the stability of a twenty-something year old man's masculinity.
If he were thirty and comfortable in his life, rather than trying to make one for himself, I don't think he'd mind being a stay-at-home dad or making less money than his woman. And, yeah, while the imposed gender roles are still up, it's only because, at the moment, he's trying to prove he's a man, and he'll -probably- get over that in a few years.