Men leave the workforce primarily for career advancement, women opt out of their careers to attend responsibilities at home
Trade-offs are a given, it’s about what you choose
At the World Economic Forum 2013, in Davos, Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook, attacked gender stereotypes that hold women back at work. Sandberg, who is publishing a book called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to succeed, in March, singled out T-shirts sold in the US, with the boys' version emblazoned with the words "Smart like Daddy", while the girls' version says "Pretty like Mommy".
She said, “Managers unconsciously reflect stereotypes when they judge women's performance, saying: "She's great at her job but she's just not as well liked by her peers," or: "She's a bit aggressive." They say this with no understanding that this is the penalty women face because of gender stereotypes." Sandberg also criticised the fact that, it is still assumed women will take on the majority of the caring responsibilities at home, even when both parents work. She said, "Women still have two jobs in the most developed countries around the world; men have one."
The stereotypes clearly translate into these statistics:
Of one hundred and ninety heads of state in the United States, nine are women. Of all the people in parliament in the world, 13 per cent are women. In the corporate sector, women at the top, C-level jobs, board seats, tops out at 15-16 per cent. The numbers have not moved since 2002, and are going in the wrong direction.
Sandberg is spot on. Gender stereotypes do deeper damage than intended.
Women drop out of high flying careers to take care of families: A survey done by Harvard Business Review (HBR), in 2005 showed that 37 per cent of women opted out of their career voluntarily. These numbers grew to 43 per cent for those who had children. On the contrary, only 24 per cent of men chose to opt out and there was no variation between those who were fathers and those not. The reasons for which women and men take off ramps were also dramatically different. While men leave the workforce primarily for career advancement, women opt out of their careers to attend responsibilities at home.
Women tend to downsize their ambition: Women find it difficult to sustain their ambition. In a 2004, HBR article, Anna Fel argues that ambition stands on two legs—master and recognition. To hold on to their dreams, not only must women attain necessary skills and experience, they must also have their achievements appropriately recognized. To the extent the latter is missing in female careers, ambition is undermined. A vicious cycle emerges: As women’s ambitions stall, they are perceived as less committed, they no longer get best assignments and this lowers their ambitions further.
Women want to have it all: The basic laws of economy ensure that there will be tradeoffs. However women tend to aim for perfection in everything they do. As Sandberg says, “Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.”
For the scenario to change for the better, women need to get out of their own way and then create a support system. Sandberg’s advice to women, in her speech in the Ignition Conference in New York in 2011, sums it all, "The most important career choice you'll make is who you marry."