Uh oh – some gender fighters won’t like a new set of studies from Harvard Business School because they explain why there are so few women at the top.

According to the statistics, less than 5 percent of CEOs and less than 15 percent of executive officers at Fortune 500 companies are women. Some would suggest that there are some institutional or social forces at work in holding women back from breaking through that glass ceiling.

It turns out younger millennial women are different from their Baby Boomer moms and older feminists. We don’t believe the line that we can and must try to have it all. We don’t think we carry a mandate to break through every workplace barrier, pursue the c-suite, and prove that we’re as every bit as good as the guy next to us by taking his job and that of our boss.

Harvard conducted a series of nine studies with over 4,000 participants that found a significant and consistent difference in our career aspirations. Two of the studies found that men and women differ in their life goals and outcomes on professional development. Among “core life goals” (such as being in a committed relationship, attaining power or status, and keeping up with sports, etc.), women name more goals than men and fewer of them had to do with power.

In another survey, they asked participants from top MBA program programs within the past couple of years to indicate on a ladder their current position, their ideal position, and the highest position they could realistically attain. Female participants reported a significantly lower ideal position.

This contradicts some past explanations for gender imbalance such as institutional barriers or innate different in men’s and women’s perceptions, decisions and behaviors such as more aggressive behaviors on the part of men to initiate negotiations and to choose to engage in competitive environments.

The researchers theorize:

… because women tend to believe they have less time in which to attain a greater number of goals, they are likely to experience more conflict in deciding which goals to pursue and which to sacrifice or compromise. When one of their goals is brought clearly to their attention and seems attainable (for example, being offered a promotion at work), women are more likely than men to feel anxious about the sacrifices or difficult trade-offs they would have to make to give that goal more attention than others. Thus women may associate power-related goals (such as taking on a high-level position) with more negative outcomes than men — which could help explain why women view a high-level position as less desirable than men do, even if it seems equally attainable.

They acknowledge,as I think we all do, that there is a gender imbalance, but it shouldn’t be taken negatively if occurs because of personal choice and not discrimination or other external factors. They also don’t want us to think that women are low achievers either:

Our data might lead you to conclude that we are claiming that women are not ambitious or that women should not be offered positions of power. But such conclusions would mischaracterize the research. Being ambitious means having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed. But success, especially professional success, means different things to different people. … So, if one defines professional ambition narrowly as achieving power over others, then women are less ambitious. But most people — especially women — do not define professional success in this narrow way.

Based on these data, we cannot make value judgments about whether men and women’s differing views of professional advancement are good or bad, or rational or irrational for individuals, organizations, or society. It is possible that men and women are correctly predicting the differential experiences that they would encounter with professional advancement and are making sound decisions. It is also possible that women are overestimating the negative consequences associated with power, that men are underestimating them, or both.

Finally, some reason on this subject.

Slate writer, who reports on these studies struggles with the findings of these surveys, is unwilling to let go of the female oppression argument:

There’s a prevailing feeling in some feminist circles that we’ve all got to stick to the black-and-white party line because so much is at stake, especially since those who’d dismiss claims of discrimination will grasp onto anything within reach to support their flimsy case…

But oppression is complicated, and people are, too. This is a both-and situation, not an either-or; one explanation of gender inequity being true does not make the other not true. There are plenty of well-documented external barriers to women rising in the workplace—little things like getting disproportionately negative performance reviews and not being hired in the first place—but women’s preferences, which are deeply informed by things like imposter syndrome and socialization toward family care, are just as relevant…

This should be liberating for young women in the marketplace and those in college deciding their next steps. We should not fear finger-wagging or nods of disapproval from our elders over our career decisions. A young female lawyers who chooses to exit the partner track to start a family and stay at home should not be frowned upon by her mentors such as in a past episode of tv drama “The Good Wife” when Elisha tries to convince her bright and promising first-year mentee not to leave practice entirely.

In a free society we have to be okay with the choices individuals make for themselves and their families. Progress for the sake of progress at the expense of personal goals and desires eventually lead to hollow individuals.