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Studies Show Working Women Can’t Have it All

Even in 2017, whether working women can have both a career and a husband is still viewed as a relevant question. For women, finding work life balance seems to refer more to finding balance between keeping house and husband, while maintaining a professional life.

An experiment conducted through Marginal Revolution, a blog focused on current events, conducted two field experiments to answer the question: “Do single women avoid career-enhancing actions because these actions could signal personality traits (like ambition) that are undesirable in the marriage market?”

The results say yes.

Women avoiding career-enhancing action to compete in the marriage market is an archaic idea tied to traditional gender roles where men feel the need to be dominant. But this study shows that women continue to give this idea space to grow.

In the experiment, single and non-single women in a MBA class in the U.S. filled out a questionnaire on job preferences and personality traits. When they believed their answers were confidential, single and non-single women answered similarly.

However, when single women believe their responses were being shared with classmates, they overall reported desired salaries $18,000 lower, were willing to travel seven fewer days per month and work four fewer hours a week. The answers of men and non-single women remained unchanged.

It seems that women are acting less ambitious to appear more attractive and prove that they’re “marriage material.”

The second experiment asked students to make choices over hypothetical jobs and discuss those choices with a group. The study reports that single women were less likely to select career-focused jobs when their answers were being shared with male peers. Another notable difference in single women in class is that their performance, although similar to married women, is kept more private from classmates, and they have lower participation grades.

Who’s at fault here? I believe it’s internalized misogyny.

A quick Google search will clarify why these single women feel the need to downplay their ambitions and success. When researching “women’s careers and relationships,” the top articles were about how to balance career ambition and relationships; why professional millennial women are unable to find dateable men; and how women, careers and marriage mix.

Trading the word “women” for “men,” the focus of the articles shifted. From a person’s ability to commit to both career and relationship, to what driven men need in a partner, what careers to choose to find love, and when to break up with a partner when they are hindering your career pursuits.

Is it because many men seem to believe gender equality will cause relationship problems that women feel unable to be equally ambitious? And that men steer away from ambitious women? If so, we need a reality check. A study reported in Business Insider found that relationships with greater equality in earning income and overall sharing in household chores were more stable.

Ultimately, it comes down to perpetuated gender roles. And until we can get past that will we be able to stop asking if women can have both career and relationship.

Photo by greekfood-tamystika 

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