Several days ago I read an article on Time.com entitled “Do Women Really Want Equality?” by Kay Hymowitz. In this article Ms. Hymowitz delves into the question of whether or not women want professional equality. She calls it “equality by the numbers.”
After thinking about it for some time I can definitely see where Hymowitz is coming from, although I can’t say that I entirely agree with her. She ends the article by saying “Equality-by-numbers advocates should be thinking about women’s progress in terms of what women show that they want, not what the spreadsheets say they should want.”
Much of her argument is based on a true statistic. Pew Research recently conducted a survey of working parents and there was an increase of mothers (from 44% to 50%) with children under the age of 18 who stated that they would prefer to work part time. You can see the entire report here.
Hymowitz also states that women overwhelmingly choose specialties in their field that have historically had lower wages (being a pediatrician rather than a surgeon, for example) citing that family time and flexible hours are more important to them.
Now, I am absolutely not disputing any of these facts. However, as a well-educated professional women who is also rapidly approaching motherhood (according to my profile on TheBump.com I have 175 days to go) I cannot fully agree with her analysis. The reason for my disagreement is because she does not delve into the social aspects that go along with choosing a profession.
A Google search helps me to prove my point.
Searching for “working mothers” brings up 166 million results. A glance at the first page gives a working mother resources for balancing her home/work life, eradicating guilt for having a career, and generally how to deal with the struggles of being a parent first and a professional second.
A search for “working fathers” brings up 120 million results. Skimming over the first page here we see articles at dads who are questioning the norm of women being “working mothers” but men not being “working fathers” (so the landscape is changing. I think that is great!), what women need from their partners, and a book (not regularly updated website) on balancing work and family life.
This tells me that our culture values women as mothers and men as workers. Certainly there are other things that tell me this as well, but I feel like this is a really good example.
I also think that admitting that women want flexible hours while men are more focused on income potential (apparently at any cost) ignores the ultimate reasons why women state that flexible hours is a top priority. Women, being viewed as the dominant parent in our society would cite flexible hours as a higher priority when they are the ones who are more likely to be judged for not being at the school play or sporting event. Flexible hours are a higher priority when you are the one in your relationship who is going to be the one to leave work when your child gets sick at school.
Finally, I believe that Hymotiz’s argument is flawed because she ignores the fact that women with equal education and experience to their male counterparts are still (statistically) making 25% less than their XY peers. Yes, maybe women do flock to professions that are more flexible, like nursing for example. But male nurses still make more than their female nurse counterparts.
So, do women really want equality? I emphatically say yes! Women and men alike want the support from their partners, families, and society to have “by the numbers” equality. We all want this to be a possibility so that we can make the best choices for ourselves & our families without being encumbered by the judgement of our friends, peers, and society at large.