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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Five kids and a full-time job

I am writing this from the perspective of a young woman, ambitious to achieve a healthy career, marriage and family … but is this too much to ask for in 2023? According to the data, potentially. 

Women account for over 50% of the population but, in 2017, women accounted for less than 4% of board chairs across nearly 7,000 companies in 44 countries. Furthermore, only one in four C-Suite leaders are women … only one in 20 are woman of color. How does this happen? Well, for every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level to manager, only 87 women are promoted. This trend continues up the ladder leaving fewer females available at each level to promote to the next.  

Additionally, women leaders are now leaving their companies at the highest rate in years. In fact, for every woman director who gets promoted, two women directors are choosing to leave their company. Perhaps this is because female leaders are two times as likely as male leaders to be mistaken for someone more junior. Perhaps this is because women filed 78% of the 27,291 sexual harassment charges from 2018 to 2021 and 59% of women have reported experiencing microaggressions and/or sexual harassment while at work. Or, perhaps this is because the gender pay gap in the United States has closed only two cents over the past two decades. Whatever the case, the data has shown again and again that females who take the hardest hits in their careers all share one thing in common — they are mothers.

This is not good economically. It is estimated that gender pay gaps cost the global economy roughly 15% of potential GDP. However, increasing female employment rates in OECD countries to match that of a current leader in the space, Sweden, is projected to boost GDP by over $6 trillion U.S.D

This is not good for individual companies. Statistically, gender diversity is a 62.6% predictor of increased profits and productivity; 59.1% of openness and innovation; 57.8% of enhanced company reputation and 37.9% of the ability to better gauge consumer interest and demand.

Last but not least, this is not good for our current and future families alike. Longitudinal U.S. data suggests positive associations between mothers’ employment and adult daughters’ employment probability, income, hours worked and equitable division of household work. Likewise, adult sons of U.S.-employed mothers engage in more housework and are more likely to be married to women who are also employed. Encouraging and helping women from the current generation to stay in the workforce and climb the corporate ladder will have positive effects on future generations.

While interning this past summer, I was asked by an older colleague if I would like to be a mother someday. “Absolutely!” I replied. “How many?” he asked. 

“Three to five.” 

“Wow. Do you want to work?” 

“Yes, absolutely.” 

“There's nothing wrong with being a full-time mom.” 

“I completely understand that, but my mom has always worked full time, and I look up to her immensely for it, so I’d like for my kids to do the same.” 

“Very ambitious and to each their own, but it may come down to which one matters more to you in the future.” 

This conversation meant no harm on either side and no offense was taken. However, I would be shocked to hear that any male colleagues ever experienced a conversation like this in the workplace. 

In order for ambitious young women to “have it all” and to really succeed, society must stop telling women they have to choose. Women who have left their jobs in the past 12 months cite the top reasons as work-life balance (45%) followed by career advancement (39%) and higher pay (36%). In order to become more equitable and efficient environments, workplaces could prioritize increasing flexibility, protecting employee personal time, increasing pay transparency and releasing detailed commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion measures. It is important to create workplaces welcoming to all–to create work that is applicable to all. Furthermore, it is important to continuously leave the world a more equitable place so that our children may be even more ambitious to do the same. If I can’t have five kids and a full-time job, then I at least hope my granddaughter might.

Emma Schoenauer is a junior living in Johnson Family Hall studying Economics and minoring in Sustainability and in Public Service. Emma is Vice President of BridgeND and is heavily involved in sustainability efforts on campus. She is passionate about utilizing economics to establish efficient and sustainable practices for financial firms and government institutions in her future.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.