A collaborative study by two researchers, Dr. Kristina Durante and Dr. Vlad Griskevicius, challenges the reasons why women are accomplished. The study highlights a sexual paradox associated with women’s economic and educational advancement, how the ratio of men to women dramatically alters women’s choices about career and family, and the consequences.
According to Kristina Durante, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Business, when the numbers of available men are limited, women are less likely to concentrate on family and marriage and more on career.
Study coauthor Vlad Griskevicius, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, said in Pychcentral:
“A scarcity of men leads women to invest in their careers because they realize it will be difficult to settle down and start a family. In fact, the strongest effects were found for women who are least likely to secure a mate.”
Well, gee. That would make sense, wouldn’t it? We still have to make a living, spouse or not. And ideally people would rather have two parents per child than raising one alone. Many hands make for light work, and children are work, requiring a significant investment.
Durante is quoted in The Daily Mail as saying:
“Women who judged themselves to be less desirable to men, those women who are not like Angelina Jolie, were most likely to take the career path when men became scarce.” Essentially saying if a woman feels she is unattractive and therefore not worthy of marriage, she might as well throw herself into her work.
Why cast aspersions on women showing drive and ambition to be successful in lieu of marriage and children? Generally, it seems a man is rewarded for waiting before settling down, finishing his education, and getting established in a career first. Men are expected to be logical and stable.
Women are typecast as the damsel who only wants to work just long enough to find someone else to take care of us. It’s offensive, as offensive as telling a mother she is not work-worthy, to assume we as women are just biding our time, playing college student and hard-working career chick, while waiting for prince charming to swoop in and end our needless pursuit of an education and income. Or maybe we just want to be equally pragmatic and stable before settling down ourselves — if ever we decide to.
Durante notes, “As women pursue more education and more lucrative careers when they can’t find a husband, the ironic effect is that it will only get harder to find a husband as women become more educated and earn higher salaries.”
It’s possible a woman went to college, not because she couldn’t find a husband, but because she wanted to broaden her educational horizons. Perhaps those of us, who are unmarried and without children, seek something, not better, but different. Not everyone is made happy by the exact same thing, and we’re using our inalienable right to choose what does. If a painter was forced to be a lawyer, with absolutely no interest in the law, he or she would be miserable being a lawyer, fighting against their instinct to paint.
As we have societal champions that fight for the dignity and respect of stay at home mothers, those of us who particularly enjoy being career driven and aren’t excited at the idea of marriage and children have Betty Friedan.
The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan first published in 1963, focused on the causality of the frustrating dissatisfaction women of that era were experiencing. The Feminine Mystique addressed “the problem that has no name,” the widespread unhappiness of women in the 1950s and early 1960s. Not all were satisfied with the archetypical roles expected of them, keeping house, being the devoted wife, and having children, despite living in the material comfort their husband’s provided. Many were depressed and perplexed as to how to address it at the time, assuming something was wrong with them for not feeling absolutely fulfilled in their ‘profession’ of wife and mother. Many of these women had college educations, but were expected to get a degree and then immediately after get married. They went from their father’s homes to their husband’s without any real time or opportunity in between to explore alternatives.
In 1957, Friedan conducted a survey of her former Smith College classmates for their 15th anniversary reunion. The results prompted her to do additional research centering on the psychology, media, and advertising geared towards society and suburban housewives.
It is an archaically narrow minded perception to assume that all women are hyper focused on the wedding aisle, as though it validates our otherwise mere existence. Yes, often out of necessity some of us are pulled into two directions when deciding what sacrifices to make in order to have what would make us happiest; mother or career. For others the decision is easy.
The double standard is assumed that men are not as encumbered with the same stigma women are regarding being a stay at home parent vs. breadwinner. That is the traditional perception. I’m sure there are some stay at home fathers who would argue they endure a litany of criticism for opting for the non-traditional role. But for now, let’s focus on the condemnation of working women this study projects.
Women these days encounter numerous undesirable men who do not have the will or skill to be a father or provider, or ambition beyond their gaming console. We have to tangle with swaggering misogynists who expect us to be more like a mother and maid, than a girlfriend or wife. As gender roles change, there is a movement of men who assume women should be the providers, while they stay home and tend to the house and kids. Women have to adjust perception to accommodate that as well.
Durante concludes that educated, successful women cause themselves the inability to get a spouse.
“This is because a woman’s mating standards keep increasing as she becomes more educated and wealthy, which further decreases the number of suitable mates. More than ever before, modern women are increasingly forced to make tough choices such as choosing briefcase over baby.”
Apparently, it’s a bad thing to have high standards and expectations when it comes to a mate.
[Photo Credit: 1942, Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller, Rosie the Riveter]