Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Most Women Are Happier With a Balanced Life Than With an Absorbing Career

Susan Pinker's book is called The Sexual Paradox as a play on the economists' idea of a "gender paradox": compared to men, women earn less and have lower status, but are happier with their work. But this is only a paradox if you assess the value of your job on its own, not in relation to the rest of your life. Career-oriented women and men are likely to rate their jobs that way. As I noted yesterday, Catherine Hakim estimates that about 20% of women are primarily career-oriented. By contrast, about 55% of men are primarily career-oriented.

Thus the paradox: career-oriented male economists - that is, most economists - are puzzled that women don't count happiness the same career-oriented way that most men do. And some women are like most men. But most women are not like most men. There is only a paradox if you assume that men and women are the same.


Anonymous said...

I am sure a good number of these balanced women are married to unbalanced career oriented men. Maybe that's why they can afford to choose a more balanced life.

Gruntled said...

If it makes each of them happier, I don't see a problem.

Susan Weston said...

The alternatives of job decisions being about pay and status or being about fitting in with the rest of your life don't give the whole story.

A job is a piece of your life. It matters whether you like the people involved and the place. It matters whether you enjoy what you do. It matters whether you feel good about what you produce. You factor that in with the money and the status and the compatibility with family and everything else.

Seeing that complexity and wrestling with it is a coherent humane approach to a balanced life--and an approach used by women more often than by men.

Gruntled said...

Pinker interviewed a woman who thought she was in the career-oriented minority -- until she had the baby who needed her. Then she discovered that in her own experience, "work is just work."

Pinker reports something similar about her own life.

Susan Weston said...

Any of these women gotten one off to college yet? The work comes back.

Gruntled said...

Pinker has. Then she wrote this book. I bet she works fewer counseling hours than she did before kids, though.