Career vs. family. Select one, neglect the other. Supposedly it is every woman’s dilemma.
But it is not.
Women understand that both work and family responsibilities are essential and do not necessarily detract from each other, although “family remains at the core of what’s important for all women, whether they work inside or outside the home.”
That is one of the findings of a study released Wednesday of American women’s attitudes toward work, family and society that shows a majority of women wouldn’t give up either role as nurturers and as providers.
Other findings include:
Women are concerned about the “meanspiritedness of our times” and worry “that people are not caring about others.”
If money is not an issue, women will choose part-time work more often than fulltime work, volunteer work or staying at home and caring for children.
Women measure success in the workplace by the quality of their own work.
Women’s greatest workplace concern is employers providing fewer benefits.
Most employed women provide half of their family’s income.
“Should women work or shouldn’t they is not a big debate in women’s minds,” says Ellen Galinsky, project director of the study and copresident of the Families and Work Institute in New York.
She said the debate recurred after the deaths of 19 children in a day-care center in the Oklahoma City bombing tragedy that killed 167 last month. “I was interviewed many times about that and it made me upset. Now these parents who lost children were supposed to feel guilty because they were employed.
“It’s a dragon that puts its head down and then puts it up again, but that dragon does not exist within most women. They feel they are providing for and nurturing their families. They do have too much to do, but they see it as a weighted scale and not one that’s tipping.”
Asked whether they would like to give up some of their responsibilities, 56 percent in the survey said they would not.
More than two-thirds of the women interviewed between the ages of 18 and 55 were employed, with 45 percent working full time, 15 percent working part time, and 8 percent selfemployed.
The telephone survey of 1,502 women ages 18 to 55 was conducted by Louis Harris and Associates for the Families and Work Institute, a non-profit planning and research organization. Findings were also based on female focus groups interviewed around the country late last year. Funded by the Whirlpool Foundation, the study, “Women: The New Providers,” was described as the most comprehensive analysis of women’s attitudes about family, workplace and society in more than a decade.
“The part-time work responses surprised me,” said Galinsky, referring to part-time work as the preferred choice for a majority of women. “We have to redefine part-time work. Today we define it as halftime, but we need a reduced-time model. Women who work part time say they are committed to their work.”
The two greatest workplace concerns for women in the survey were a paucity of benefits and the balancing of family and work life.
Fifty-six percent of women “worry a great deal” about the few benefits their employers provide and more than 40 percent worry about balancing work and family. Women with small children are more likely to worry “a great deal” about family versus work.
Women in the study, no matter what their educational level, expressed interest in continued learning. Those employed part time - 56 percent - are nearly as likely to have taken some sort of training course as those employed full time - 60 percent. With more education, women were more likely to work, to work at higher-level jobs, to receive higher pay, receive benefits, to feel more valued at work, to have fewer worries about workplace pressures affecting family life and to take more courses and training.
“Education was such a predictor of success,” said Galinsky. “So many women wanted to enroll in degreegranting programs, even low-income women. This is very relevant to the welfare-reform debate because the debate isn’t talking about this at all. We are not just talking about training, we are talking about getting involved in credentialed education.”
The survey also found that most women define family values not by the configuration of the family, but if the family is “loving … and supporting of each other.”
Five questions in the 51-question survey were posed to a smaller number of American men and men and women in Canada and Mexico.
While 70 percent of American women said they worried a great deal about people not caring for each other, a smaller proportion of American men - 52 percent - shared that concern. Fifty-five percent of Mexican men and 54 percent of Mexican women said they were concerned a great deal. In Canada, it was 41 percent of men and 51 percent of women.
The call for a more caring society, especially after Oklahoma City, “will hopefully be a Mother’s Day message,” said Galinsky.
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