Had enough of the Hilary Rosen/Ann Romney debate yet? Me too. Let’s move ahead. Specifically, let’s look at what the future might hold when it comes to mothers and work.
Today, Pew Research Center released a study on attitudes toward work and family that reveals young women are prioritizing career and family at far higher levels than previous generations — and at higher levels than their male counterparts.
These women are also upending some cultural assumptions.
Now, more women than men aged 18 to 34 cite career as a high life priority. Sixty-six percent of young women said a high-paying career or profession is “one of the most important things” or “very important” in their lives, according to the Pew report. Fifty-nine percent of young men agreed with that statement.
In 1997, the answers reflected a more traditional gender model with 58 percent of young men giving career and profession high importance compared to 56 percent of young women.
The attitude shift may have something to do with our current reality.
In the Pew report, analysts found that more than 70 percent of mothers with children at home are in the labor force, rising from 47 percent in 1975.
There is some variation when it comes to the age of the children; 64 percent of mothers with children younger than 6 are in the labor force while it’s 77 percent for mothers of older children at home.
The truth is that the juggling of work and family is not always by choice. And, that successful career? Often it’s not so high paying, and it’s not a career. It’s a job that taken by necessity to pay the bills.
It happens that the Center for American Progress also released a report this week that makes clear many mothers currently in the labor force have not “chosen” that route. It’s been an economic necessity.
“In 2010 there were more female breadwinners in the United States than in any year since data began being collected. This is partially due to women’s record rate of employment, men’s continued high rates of unemployment, and men’s declining wages,” says the report.
(E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote more about that report in The Post.)
But the harsher realities of family life have not doused the expectations and priorities of the younger set.
While majorities of both men and women surveyed by Pew cited career as a top priority, many more cited being a good parent and having a successful marriage as important.
In fact, younger women, cited family and parenting as a higher priority than ever before. The share of young women who rate parenting as a top priority has increased 17 percentage points in recent years. “Thus, the increased importance women are now placing on their careers has not come at the expense of the importance they place on marriage and family,” according to Pew.
How do you rate your life priorities when it comes to career and kids? Is it unrealistic to consider both a top priority, or might the attitude changes among younger adults lead to a more supportive work-life family culture?