The New York Times article (here) on Ivy League women who plan to scale back their professional careers to be with their children continues to spark discussion.
IWF friend and Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young addresses the issues raised by this article:
“[D]espite the flaws in the article, there is little doubt that the underlying phenomenon is real. What’s far less clear is whether it’s a cultural shift of some kind. The story points out that in several surveys of Yale alumni and Harvard Business School graduates, the majority of women were not employed full-time 10 to 20 years after graduation.
“Nor it is necessarily new that young women are scaling down their career expectations while still in college. In 1980, The New York Times ran a front-page story headlined ‘Many Young Women Now Say They’d Pick Family Over Career,’ with uncanny similarities to last week’s piece — right down to the opening paragraph profiling a female high achiever who seems to represent a feminist dream come true, except that she plans to trade it for full-time motherhood.
“What’s clear is that, in the 40 years since the rise of the modern women’s movement, large numbers of women blessed with the opportunities denied to previous generations have not followed the egalitarian feminist script. Instead, they have, to a greater or lesser extent, embraced traditional female roles — much to the chagrin of feminists such as Yale women’s and gender studies professor Laura Wexler. ‘I really believed 25 years ago,’ Wexler told the Times, ‘that this would be solved by now.’
“Should this persistent traditionalism be regarded as a problem in need of a solution? One could argue that stay-at-home mothers, present or future, are exercising their freedom of choice in the most feminist way possible. Yes, this likely means that women will not reach parity in leadership positions. But to ask women to sacrifice their personal aspirations to a feminist vision of parity would be a peculiar kind of liberation.”
Some women (like me) don’t have children and get fulfillment from other pursuits, in my case work. However, like Cathy, I’m not sure the phenomenon of women wanting to be with the children they bring into the world is a problem.
And there’s one other thing: I grew up in my maternal grandfather’s house, a man born long before feminism was a word. But he dated the Virginia novelist Ellen Glascow, and he placed high value on the education of women. Whenever he went to Memphis, he returned with a novel for my grandmother. I treasure these books. (No bookstores in the Mississippi Delta in those days.) He believed that a woman needed a good education to influence her children.
Those sources quoted in the Times, on the other hand, seem to assume that an education is wasted on those who do not become partners in major law firms.