recent study by market research company, Colmar Brunton, into New
Zealand young people in their 20’s indicates that young women are
increasingly finding their self esteem and identity outside the
traditional family structure of marriage and family, and want to put off
having children to continue with their careers. The young
women who completed the survey rated getting a pay rise or a compliment
at work as more important than getting married or having children.
the findings also seem to show that, while females are focusing on
their career, many young men would like to become dads earlier if they
could only find a young woman willing to settle down. For
example, when asked to list a number of priorities for the next two to
three years women put “being recognised as a leader” or “expertise in
their field” at the top of both their short term and long term goal
list. In contrast, men listed having children as their top
short-term priority, and buying a nice car as their top long-term
leader of the study, Spencer Willis observed that the trend towards the
reversal of traditional roles has been increasing over the last five
years, and warned that the friction between the male desire for
fatherhood and female priorities could be “challenging” in the future.
Willis said the survey findings did not indicate that women do not want
marriage or a family, but that they wanted to try to have it all. He commented that:
role reversal isn’t necessarily a complete 180, it’s not just girls
running around talking all about career and acting all laddish, they are
juggling both of these departments – their more traditional roles and
also how to make their mark in the professional world.”
The danger becomes at what point do women step off the career ladder? It
becomes a tough choice when there is always the carrot of a further pay
rise or a further bonus for staying X amount of years at the company
dangling ahead, alongside the daunting change of lifestyle that a baby
might bring in comparison to that that professional woman are able to
enjoy. It also means that, for the many women who feel
they are too far down the track to abandon their careers, children can
be viewed as just another thing to tick of the list, fit in, and hand to
a nanny each morning.
Young women need to stop and question themselves about where exactly the track they are running down leads. Too
many women are only slowing down once they realise that work is failing
to completely fulfil them and their body clocks are running short of
time sometime in their thirties – which is why more and more woman are
struggling to have children through unnatural means like IVF. Only yesterday I was talking to a woman who is a mother and was a partner of a large commercial firm for many years. Now
in her fifties, she commented that she wished she had put more emphasis
on family and balance when she was making her career choice because,
with the greater perspective she now possesses, she considers that
working your way up to the top position in the rat race is not all that
it’s cracked up to be.
the influence that mothers have on society continues to be undervalued,
we might see more and more women choosing their self-esteem giving
careers over motherhood – and more and more disappointed, clucky young
men waiting to build a family.
Shannon Buckley is a lawyer in Auckland, New Zealand.