About a year ago, my friend Karima-Catherine Goundiam brought to my attention an article from the Wall Street Journal. The article was called, “Where are all the senior level women?” To say that the article fried my friddle (there’s a saying for you) would be an understatement. The underlying belief in this article and many others is that women are absent from senior management positions in large part because (and I’ll quote this particular article), “As women age, their desire to move to the next level dissipates faster than men’s.”
Other articles note that women allegedly lose their desire to “move to the next level” because their desire to stay home with the kids outdoes anything having to do with work. There is also the “ticking biological clock” that so many speak of. Take as an example this 2008 article that suggests that women should have babies in their twenties because “you can have a career any time you want.”
Granted, there are a ton of women out there who DO definitely prefer to put family first. Even if they have had a lot of success in their professional lives, a lot of women strongly believe that once they have kids, their place is with them. However, I am not sure this is enough to explain why there aren’t more women in CEO or other high level positions.
Where the dads come in
All of that being said, these types of articles that indicate that women are more willing than men to put family first also are perpetuating stereotypes about men, and this often goes overlooked. I have been fortunate to meet or learn about a lot of men who want nothing more than to be with their children as much as possible. They have often put plans on hold or have hauled over their professional lives so that they can be at home more. Many of these men are struggling with society’s odd attitudes about men who are more ambitious about fatherhood than they may be about getting that corner office, just like society has odd attitudes about women who are more ambitious about the corner office than they are about families.
In the struggle on the part of many women to equalize the playing field, the stereotyping that men are now having to fight often gets overlooked. I think this statement from Scott Stratten (aka @unmarketing) is very telling:
I think we’ve lost our way on what a “man” is. We need to go back to a man meaning someone who held doors open for others, who didn’t mind picking up the tab instead of calculating % of bill on their iPhone, and someone that isn’t afraid to show emotion. I guess I want “gentlemen” to return to the front lines. from Digital Dads
There is an increasingly loud voice amongst men indicating that not all men prefer professional success over success at home. Men like Brandon Duncan, CC Chapman, and Bruce Sallan vocalize this perspective on a regular basis. This isn’t to say that these men aren’t desirous of success, of course. It just means that given the choice, an increasingly large number of men are feeling like they need to make clear that they love their families as much as women do.
With all of that in mind, articles that indicate that there aren’t more senior level women because “women care about families more” not only pigeon-hole women. They also pigeon-hole men. Men and women are finding themselves constantly having to swim against society’s pre-determined “normal” to find happiness, and that is not a winning situation for anyone, right?
What are your thoughts about this issue? Are men facing just as many ramifications of sexism as women? If you are a man, do you feel that you are looked down upon if you place your family as your first priority? If you are a woman, do you agree that men are being pigeon-holed based on outdated societal expectations?
I’d love to hear your opinions!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cimmyt/5247766968/ via Creative Commons