Harvard Business Review studied 4,000 senior-level executives from 2008-2013 (44% of the responders were female) and found some interesting differences along gender lines.
The study asked executives to define both personal and professional success. Women placed a higher emphasis on individual achievement and making a difference at work and a lower emphasis on making a financial difference than men.
But what stood out to me is what happened when conflicts arose between work and family life. Men overwhelmingly chose work when work and family collided, even to the detriment of their families.
A Good Provider
The cultural narrative that a man needs to be a good provider for his family is pervasive, the study concludes. The male responders chose work over family, because they felt the need to be the breadwinner was stronger than the need to spend time with their families. They don’t feel guilty about abandoning their families, in fact, one respondent talked about how important those “ten minutes with his kids” every night were. Without a shred of irony, he’s indicating that spending ten minutes with his children is sufficient because he’s taking care of the family financially.
Now, it goes without saying these executives are probably bringing in enough income to make their families comfortable (although we all know that high earning does not always equal high savings), but the men choose work anyway.
The Example We Set
If today’s executives see the work of raising children as primarily the woman’s job, we’re teaching the next generation to do the same. This has implications that we may not live to see. But it strikes me that there’s this imbalance. That no matter which way we lean, once we have children, we’re the gender that has to change our priorities, not the other way around.
Sure, being a workaholic executive can give children boundless economic opportunities. But at what cost?
The Way I See It
I grew up in a two-income household, and the breadwinner wasn’t my dad. Now, here I am, 32 years old, and I have an amazing relationship with my dad. He’s one of my very best friends, a confidant, and someone I enjoy knowing as a person. Is it because he worked an 8-5 job and was home most nights for dinner? Is it because he made time for his kids and took us to see some of the natural wonders of our state?
I can’t say for sure, but I suspect the answer is yes.
My dad recently retired, and it wasn’t until his retirement party that I learned about his accomplished career.
He was able to balance work and family. In fact, he was an expert. He never spent any time in a high-rise office building. In fact, I don’t even think he had to do much in the boardroom, ever.
But he prioritized family, and although I haven’t asked him, I think the answer would be a resounding “no” (perhaps even with caps lock!) if I asked if he thought raising a family was primarily the woman’s job.
What do you think? Is raising a family a woman’s job? Or do you think raising a family is the job of both parents?
Image via Creative Commons