May 23, 2012 Practice Points

Career Ambitions of Younger Women Are On the Rise

By Angela A. Turiano

According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about two-thirds of women between the ages of 18 and 34 cite a high-paying career among their top life priorities. This is compared to just 59 percent of young men. The survey results differed significantly from those in 1997 wherein only 56 percent of such women placed career success on their list of high priorities—less than the 58 percent of men were surveyed at that time.

While young women are more concerned with career success than before, it appears they “want it all.” The survey suggests that while young women now put a higher value than men on their career, this is in addition to, and not at the expense of having a family, marriage, and parenthood remain key life goals.

This rebalance of priorities may be the result of the current economic realities that result in an increasing share of families’ financial burden being on women. Other factors cited by economic professionals include increased reproductive rights, delayed marriage, access to top colleges, the abundance of other successful women as role models, and professions that were once relatively closed now open to women.

Other studies have shown that women who choose to “have it all” do so at the expense of their overall happiness. In other words, for some women, greater career ambition means less free time and a decline in overall happiness. These studies have shown that, starting at a young age, many women put increased pressure on themselves to excel at their studies while at the same time engage in extracurricular activities. This structured lifestyle in the pursuit of success does not leave women time to “just hang out” and enjoy free time.

Finally, according to the Pew survey, this drive for success is less common among the older generation in that a much smaller share of women between the ages of 35 and 64 placed a lucrative career at the top of their list of life goals.

Keywords: woman advocate, litigation, career, women, success, pay, goals

Angela A. Turiano works at Bressler, Amery & Ross, P.C.


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