Rethink What You “Know” About High-Achieving Women – Harvard Business Review

This article looks at the experiences of graduates from Harvard Business School’s MBA programme, to learn what they had to say about work and family and how their experiences, attitudes, and decisions might shed light on current debates about women in the workplace.

The authors found that both men and women shared similar goals and aspirations upon graduation, often citing reaching certain career levels/job titles. Today, however, family happiness, relationships, and balancing life and work, along with community service and helping others, are much more on the minds of these graduates.

However, while their goals may be equivalent across genders, this article notes that their ability to meet these aspirations has played out differently for men and women.

Among those who are employed full-time, men are more likely to “have direct reports, to hold profit-and-loss responsibility, and to be in senior management positions”. Moreover, the authors found that women are less satisfied with their careers:

Whereas about 50% to 60% of men across the three generations told us they were “extremely satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their experiences of meaningful work, professional accomplishments, opportunities for career growth, and compatibility of work and personal life, only 40% to 50% of women were similarly satisfied on the same dimensions.

This is in a context where it is ‘understood’ that women are also less work-focussed, and will ‘opt-out’ of work to assume the role of primary-caregiver for children/relatives, despite evidence that high proportion of women remain in full-time work. Indeed, most men surveyed assumed their careers would take priority over their opposite-sex spouse, and even for the women who had egalitarian career expectations, around half also assumed that they would perform most of the child care in their families.

The article concludes by suggesting that men, organisations and women need to overcome myths and assumptions about women’s attitudes towards work, and role as primary caregiver.

 

Read more at the HBR Blog.

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