Maybe the future will be different, maybe it won’t. As long as our biology is our biology, it doesn’t seem like things will change much. Here are some excerpts from this article I wrote:
Men work longer hours than women do and choose specialties that require more responsibility. For example, more women are now attending medical school than men, but they gravitate towards areas such as pediatrics rather than cardiology and neurosurgery, which carry greater risks and responsibilities, have more demanding hours (see here and here), and as a consequence, pay more.
Institutions are trying to get more women to enter into these intense programs and are confused why they cannot raise their numbers. The reason is — women don’t have to, so we don’t! The gender divide is actually most pronounced in nations where women have the most freedom to pursue whatever profession they want. There are a greater percentage of female scientists in Russia or Turkey than in Canada or Germany, for example.
Christina Hoff Sommers probably summed it up best when she said, “if employers could save 23 percent by hiring women, they’d fire all the men.”
Long-term studies reveal that women prefer more meaningful and connected jobs, which enhance their emotional advantages but “conflict with making lots of money and rising through the ranks,” as psychologist Susan Pinker discusses in The Sexual Paradox:
Intrinsic goals such as making a difference, or belonging to a community, are often in direct opposition to extrinsic goals like seeking financial rewards or status… women, on average, are motivated by intrinsic rewards at work… One of [the] findings was that the sway of intrinsic rewards and autonomy on the job rises with a woman’s level of education… highly educated women were also more interested in working part-time, thus fueling the opt-out phenomenon in two ways — through their search for inherent meaning at work, and via the amount of time they were willing to commit to their jobs.
In “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” Anne-Marie Slaughter suggested men don’t have to make the kind of sacrifices and compromises women make, that the hypothesis that women can have high-powered careers if men are willing to share the parenting load equally “assumes that most women will feel as comfortable as men do about being away from their children, as long as their partner is home with them.”
In her follow up book, Unfinished Business, she explains, “women also face much more cultural responsibility to be caregivers, and perfect ones at that, than men do. Even in the twenty-first century, America looks askance at any woman who doesn’t appear to put her children’s care above her professional life.”
But who is putting the pressure on whom?
What appears to be a man choosing work over family is more often a man sacrificing his wishes to be with his family for the benefit of his family.
Where a woman may feel she is being selfish by spending time away from her children, a man may feel the opposite — since he is expected to earn more he feels it would be selfish for him to work less hours to spend more time with his kids because he would be taking away financial security from his family.
The average man makes more money than the average woman, but the average man works more hours and is willing to do so because he hopes to be rewarded with love when he picks up the tab.
Meanwhile women are rewarded with love when they reduce their hours or drop out of the workforce after having children.
Affordable childcare would allow more women to stay in the workforce if they choose to, ensuring less of a pay gap due to work experience. But there is evidence this might not even be enough, or the right solution. Even in Sweden, a country with some of the most generous parental leave benefits, women still choose to take four times as much time off from work as men, and some who initially thought they wanted the father to help raise their baby now find themselves “coveting more time at home.”
Another concern is how the merging of more traditionally feminine and masculine roles in women and men will affect gender identity and relationship success. The question remains whether or not women would still find their stay-at-home partner as attractive than if he were their stay-at-work partner.
Thus far, it appears this kind of man, often referred to as a “beta male,” turns women off. For example, psychologist Lori Gottlieb found the risk of divorce is lowest when the husband earns 60 percent of the income and the wife does 60 percent of the housework, and women report higher levels of sexual satisfaction when there is a more traditional division of chores.
In other words, equal opportunity does not necessarily produce equal results, and economic shifts and socially prescribed relationship changes towards “sameness” do not necessarily result in sexual attraction and relationship success, which cannot be forced…
The stakes have been raised, not equalized, by the women’s movement, at least for men. And men will carry whatever currency women are accepting — meaning they will adapt to whatever system rewards them.