Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Trends in Balancing Work and Family

Today’s young women in college often talk about their plans for work and family as if they are one, seamless word: familyandcareer.

Placing equal importance on these two dimensions of life would have been un-imaginable to previous college-educated women. Up until World War I, female college graduates had to choose family OR career, and jobs were typically in a few professions, such as teaching, social work, and nursing. Later generations chose work, then family, (or family, then work) after children entered school or left home.

Only in more recent generations have women tried to do both. Early baby boomers often delayed marriage and childbirth so they could have a career before starting a family. They were probably the first generation of U.S. women to enter a variety of professions.

Recognizing problems with the biological clock, the most recent group of graduates want to combine career AND family. Those who finished college between 1980 and 2000 tended to stay in the labor force when they married and had children, and a larger percentage (between 21% and 27%) have managed to achieve both family and career by age 40 than any previous generation.

Why did the change take place? Some changes were based on the labor market. There were more professions open to women than in the past, as colleges and employers expanded training and opportunities for women. Also, more than any previous generation, women had more freedom to decide when to start a family. It’s great that women have the opportunity and ability to have both career and family. But let me tell you – as a mom with three children AND a career, it hasn’t been easy!

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