A new study published in a recent issue of Gender & Society suggests that occupations which have higher average working hours per week have higher levels of gender segregation. These occupations vary, but include fields like law, engineering, computer science, and areas such as senior management. According to principal investigator Youngjoo Cha, an assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University, this means that women with children tend to leave these fields at a higher rate than men or childless women.
Over at The Atlantic, Kay Stieger takes the results of this study and concludes that demanding professions must somehow reduce their working hours in order to accommodate working mothers and promote gender equality in the workplace:
This constant demand on workers time shows in high-achieving professions—while women are increasing their numbers in high-achieving professions, they’re still nowhere near gender parity. Women made up just 14.3 percent of executive officers in Fortune 500 companies in 2012, and in 2010 women made up 33.4 percent of legal jobs and 26.8 percent of physicians and surgeons. Unless these professions start reigning in working hours, it’s unlikely they’ll see much improvement.
There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t even know where to start!
First, I am disappointed in the Atlantic for taking a no-name study from a journal with an impact factor of 2.414 and elevating it to the level of popular science. This stuff wasn’t published in a major journal for a reason. In contrast, a journal such as Nature has an impact factor of 35+.
Secondly, as a woman working in one of these so-called “overworked” fields, I am disgusted at the notion that business should grant me a handicap simply because I have ovaries and may one day use them. That is not the meaning of gender equality! While there are definite gender issues in fields like computer science, I would never ever want to use my gender as a reason to work less! What ever happened to hiring the best person for the job? If the best person IS NOT a woman because she prioritizes her family over her career, why is that a problem? I would rather have a CEO or software developer or doctor who is devoted to his or her career, NOT one who is waiting to clock out at 5pm so that they can make dinner for their family.
Some jobs simply have more requirements and more demands than others. Sure, that means that those jobs may not be the best fit for a working mother. But those jobs are also not a good fit for a lot of other people! Not all guys are cut out for working intensive 60-hour weeks, for many, many reasons – do we need to accommodate them? If not, why not? People whose first language is not English are also under-represented in high level professions – should we lower the English-speaking requirements in high level jobs so that they can be accommodated as well? If not, why not?
It’s ridiculous to expect that jobs adapt themselves to the needs of every individual or group of individuals. A job is a job – some ask more of you than others. If someone can’t cut it at a job, they shouldn’t be blaming their ovaries.