Talking Career, Thinking Job: Gender Differences in Career and Family Expectations of Berkeley Seniors

by Anne Machung
Talking Career, Thinking Job: Gender Differences in Career and Family Expectations of Berkeley Seniors
Anne Machung
Feminist Studies
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Like college students across the country, Berkeley undergraduates expect to "have it all." When surveyed in the spring of 1985, graduating senior women on the Berkeley campus ovenvhelming- ly reported that they expected to be married, to have children, and to have a career. Nearly nine-tenths are planning to earn graduate degrees in law, medicine, science, or business, and half expect to earn as much, if not more, than their future husbands. Simulta- neously, they hope to raise two or three children each and to inter- rupt their careers for extended amounts of time (six months to twelve years) in order to care for their children. Few expect to get divorced or ever to raise children alone.'

They are not alone. Study after study of undergraduates across the country has found the same thing. Throughout 1985 and 1986, Catalyst, a national not-for-profit organization that develops career and family options for corporations and individuals, surveyed undergraduates at six different campuses across the country and found they too expect to "have it all."Nine-tenths of the students Catalyst interviewed plan to work full-time the rest of their lives; four-fifths anticipate raising children.2 Surveys of students at the University of California at Davis and Santa Barbara and at Califor- nia State University at Chico also indicate that a large majority of undergraduate women plan to combine careers and m~therhood.~ Clearly, across the country, women's career aspirations are rising and converging rapidly with those of undergraduate men.

Substantial changes have occurred during this century in the life expectations, labor force participation rates, and childbearing

Feminist Studzes 15, no. 1 (Spring 1989). 1989 by Anne Machung


plans and practices of U.S. women, but these changes have ac- celerated especially in the past ten to fifteen years. These changes- the rapid entry of women into the labor force, a rise in the divorce rate, and a drop in the fertility rate -have transformed family life in the United States4 In 1950, three-fifths of all U.S. households consisted of a husband at work and wife at home. By 1985, the number of dual-earner couples, of female-headed house- holds, and of single individuals living alone outnumbered tradi- tional families two to But old images die slowly. The "Leave- It-to-Beaver" family-dad at work, mom at home, and two kids in the back seat-is a relic of a past era. Only 7 percent of all U.S. households are like that today.

Dramatic changes have also occurred in the job world as oc- cupations formerly closed to women opened their doors. Between 1972 and 1978, for example, the number of women lawyers and judges rose from 3.8 to 12.4 percent, the number of female pharmacists went from 12.8 to 24.4 percent, and the number of female bankers went from 18.9 to 30.4 percent. Women did not just enter male-dominated professions but, more importantly, the pipelines to those professions as well. The number of women earning degrees in law, for example, quadrupled in the 1970s; the number earning degrees in medicine nearly tripled; and the num- ber earning Ph.D.'s in the physical sciences doubled.6 Conflicts be- tween career and family experienced by women a half-generation older than they will be accelerated as larger numbers of younger women enter high-powered careers and combine these jobs with motherhood responsibilities.

The statistics are overwhelming. In 1950, only one-quarter of all

U.S. women worked for pay; today more than one-half do. Wom- en of all ages have entered the labor force, but the steepest rise has been among women with children. In 1950, only one out of five of all mothers with children under eighteen were in the labor force; today three out of five work outside the home. Historically, the older the child, the more likely her or his mother was to work, but that trend too is leveling out as mothers of preschoolers and even infants enter the labor force in unparalleled numbers. In 1985, half of all women with children under one year old were employed.'

The pressure on women to work outside the home is partly eco- nomic, partly social, partly a function of increasing opportunities, but it is reflected in the attitudes of Berkeley undergraduates and, in fact, in the attitudes of undergraduate women across the coun- try. Embedded in their experiences, however, will be a number of fundamental contradictions- contradictions between the de- mands of building a career and the demands of raising small children and the tension of having too much to do and not enough time in which to get it all done. The demands of their careers for long hours of continuous, uninterrupted work will most likely con- flict with their desire to raise their children-a job that also takes long hours, intense commitment, and continuous involvement.

In some ways, these young women hope to escape their "motheis fateN-theywill get more education; they will build a career; they will fid more interesting, more challenging, and better paid jobs than their mothers did; and they will delay starting their families. But spoken only between the lines is a desire to replicate their mothers' lives-to place family before career and to spend large amounts of time at home, especially when their children are

young.The model of what these students expect thus is a composite of the old and the new. The years in which they have grown up have been marked by extensive and rapid social change and by an ab- sence of models upon which they could pattern their adult choices and lives. In many ways, they will be forging their own identities and their own paths, even as they struggle to deal with realities not faced by their parents-stagnation in the real standard of living, a sharp increase in the divorce rate, and the expectation that they will (of course) be career women, and at the same time, wives and mothers. How do these students, women and men alike, anticipate com- biniig a career with raising children? What potential conflicts do they foresee between work and family? What resolutions do they seek? And what difference, if any, does gender make in their vi- sions of the future? The career aspirations of undergraduate women have risen and converged with those of undergraduate men, but men's desire for a family has also risen and converged with that of undergraduate women.8 Do these students, then, coming of age on a relatively egalitarian campus, anticipate a con- gruence of gender roles? Are they equally committed to building careers, equally committed to sharing in the work that makes a home? Or do they, like their parents' generation, anticipate asyrn-

metry of roles? In the trade-offs that inevitably accompany career and family decision making will family come first to one person, career to another?

SAMPLE To answer these questions, we interviewed in-depth thirty graduating seniors at the University of California at Berkeley in fall 1985. We focused on seniors because they are older, on the verge of graduation, and closer to making major career and family decisions than are students a class or two below. To approximate the diversity of ethnic and racial backgrounds found among undergraduates at Berkeley, we selected relatively equal numbers of black, Chicano, Asian-American, and white students to be inter- viewed. We also made a special effort to recruit and interview eco- nomically disadvantaged students.9 All of the students' names used in this article have been changed to protect their identities. Of the seventeen men interviewed, four are Asian-American, four black, four Chicano, and five white. Three of the thirteen women interviewed are Asian-American, two are black, four Chicana, three white, and one, a woman from mainland China, is a foreign student.10 Because the sample size is small (we inter- viewed fewer than five students within each ethniclgender classifi- cation), we did not analyze the data by class or ethnicity but in- stead have reported that in the text for individual students where it seems informative and relevant. The mean age of these graduating seniors is twenty-three years. About half of the students have no religious affiliation; another eight are Catholic; the rest are Jewish, Protestant, Buddhist, and Muslim. Eleven of the students classify themselves as liberal or progressive politically, seven as moderates, and the remaining nine as conservatives." The women are slightly more liberal than the men; only three of the women but six of the men classlfy themselves as conservative. Two-thirds of the students come from homes where both parents are present; one-third (mostly women) have parents who are divorced or separated. This is also a sample of both quite wealthy and economically strapped students. Their reported family incomes range from below $20,000 to over $100,000 a year; the median is about

$40,000. Eleven students reported family income exceeding $60,000 a year; ten (eight of whom were men) reported that falling below $20,000. As might be expected, the Asian-American and white students we interviewed tend to come from higher income homes than black or Chicano students.12 Berkeley, however, is a highly selective public university, and Berkeley students as a whole tend to come from relatively affluent homes. Freshmen entering the university in 1985 estimated a median income of $49,000 for their parents. If anything, the median family income of students in this sample is somewhat lower than that of all students at Berkeley.13

Though ethnically and economically heterogeneous, clearly this is not a random sample of Berkeley seniors. The sample size was small, minority students were oversampled, and the voluntary nature of the interview process itself eliminated students not in- terested in being interviewed. Qualitative research, in general, is designed not to estimate population parameters or to arrive at definitive conclusions but to ask significant questions and raise central issues. The findings presented here thus should be treated as tentative and exploratory in nature. They point to important questions and recurring issues that are emerging for this and future generations of graduating college students, but these ques- tions cannot, in any sense, be truly answered by one single case study. Tentative though it is, it is hoped this exploration will deepen our understanding of the conflict in values facing this generation of college students as their life hopes, dreams, and ex- pectations unfold and come into conflict with life realities.

Like their peers across the country, the undergraduate women and men we interviewed are highly career-oriented; a majority are pre- paring to enter the highly lucrative, male-dominated professional and technical sector. Ten of the men and six of the women are planning to enter graduate school immediately following gradua- tion; others want to wait a year or two, then return to school. Although historically a high proportion of Berkeley undergradu- ates has gone on to graduate school, on the surface these women's career expectations have converged with those of undergraduate men, and they appear quite similar. But there are some subtle, and quite significant, differences.

When asked what they will look for after they fish school, the men mention a specific job title-industrial property broker, ac- tuarial mathematician, sanitary engineer. They do not plan simply to become a physician, but a physician in a clinic or in private practice. Already many are visualizing where they will work and how their jobs willbe structured. The women are not so specific. Although many women mention a specific job title- physical ther- apist, electrical engineer, or women's health lawyer- others talk in general terms. They are looking, they say vaguely, for "something in material science" or "something in international relations" or "something in corporate finance."

Undergraduate men also know more about entry-level salaries within their chosen fields and talk in terms of salary ranges. The women tend not to think in these terms. They expect to earn $25,000 a year on the average but are quite vague about what jobs pay what. One woman entering medical school guessed she would earn somewhere between $18,000 and $60,000 her first year as an intern. Another moving into marketing like her fiance estimated her future salary on the basis of his earnings. A third going into in- ternational relations guessed she would make $50,000 a year because that was what her father, also in international relations, presently earned.

Although some women estimate their earnings on the basis of what men in similar jobs make, most expect to earn less. The men in our sample estimated they would earn $32,733 a year on their first job; the women estimated $25,681 -or $7,000 a year less than the men. That gap, moreover, widens significantly over their lifetimes. At the peak of their careers, the men expect to make $99,333 on the average; the women expect $46,250-or $53,000 a year less than the men.14 In terms of percentages, these under- graduate women expect to earn 78 percent of what their male col- leagues make on their first job; that drops precipitously to 47 per- cent of men's earnings at the peak of their careers.

Although high, these estimates may be relatively accurate. Many of the students we interviewed come from affluent homes and are accustomed to comfortable incomes. Moreover, almost all are planning to enter lucrative professions. Still, the women an- ticipate earning significantly less than the men. Women profes- sionals- lawyers, engineers, and computer analysts, it is true -do make about 80 percent of what men in those fields make when they work full-time,l5 and most young women right out of graduate school would be working full-time. Most of these young women, however, anticipate interrupting their careers to have children. And women with children earn significantly less than either men or women without children.16 Although some of the wage gap can be explained by differences in career continuity be- tween women and men, much clearly cannot be. Inequities be- tween the salaries of women and men persist in the labor market despite years of affirmative action legislation. The undergraduate women we interviewed seemingly structure awareness and ac- ceptance of these inequities into their expectations even before taking their first jobs.

But it is not just talk about jobs and salary that distinguishes these undergraduate women from the undergraduate men. In gen- eral, undergraduate men are more likely to be majoring in fields like business, engineering, and applied math which directly lead to well-paying jobs. Eight of the men but only three of the women we interviewed are majoring in business and engineering; six of the women but only four of the men are humanities and social science majors. Business and engineering currently are one of the best routes to a well-paying job; the social sciences and humanities one of the worst. Yet these are the fields that women enter disproportionately more often than men.

Choice of major, of course, does not tell the whole story; under- graduate women and men also differ significantly in their reasons for working. "Money," most of the undergraduate men said, is their primary reason for working; "self-fulfillment" or "independence" said the undergraduate women.17 Unlike the women, the men talk openly about the need to eat, to survive, to make a living. Like the women, they want to be able to enjoy their jobs, to do them well, and to be respected in their fields, but money comes first. Although the undergraduate women also want to be able to sup- port themselves, they feel money is secondary to the personal satisfaction that comes from work. These women thus tend to define success at work less in terms of advancement, high salaries, and prestige and more in terms of helping other people, doing their best, and enjoying their work. At the same time they plan to enter fields characterized by high salaries, high prestige, and much advancement potential. Yet many deny these are important to them; the men are not so ambivalent.

In summary, in terms of their choices of major, knowledge of entry-level salaries, and expectations of future earnings, the undergraduate men we interviewed are clearer about their future career goals than the undergraduate women. Although the women want careers, they are less certain about what to expect from them. They are also more willing than the men, as we shall see in the following section, to compromise career goals for the sake of family goals.

Undergraduate women and men are quite similar in one respect at least: they both want partners or spouses and they both want children. Ninety percent of the women and men we interviewed hope to marry and have children, preferably two or three.18 But when one asks these students how they plan to combine their careers, marriages, and children, striking differences appear.

We asked undergraduate women and men whose job in their future marriage would come first. Hisjob, said ten of the men and seven of the women. Only four of the men and four of the women are incipient egalitarians who hope to work out compromises fair to both. And only one person (a future lawyer and a strong feminist) said her job would come first. Undergraduates, moreover, define "coming first" quite explicitly-who would relocate for whom, and who would make career sacrifices for whom. Half of the women interviewed said they would be willing to relocate for the sake of their husbands' jobs; only two of the men said they might relocate for their wives' jobs. They base such privileges upon his earning capacity. Over half of the students interviewed (ten men and eight women) anticipate the husband will earn more in their future marriage; only two, a future male architect and the future feminist lawyer, anticipate the wife will earn more.lg

Not only do these undergraduates value the husband's career more than the wife's, but they have correspondingly different ex- pectations of each other's work trajectory. The men expect to be continuously employed; the women expect intermittent employ- ment. Virtually all the women in the sample, for example, were absolutely certain they wanted their future husbands to work con- tinuously. "It would be strange," said one, echoing the sentiments of many, "if I was at work and he was at home." But many of the men were tentative about their future wivesf employment. Several stated they wanted her to stay home after she had children. Others felt the need to encourage her to work. But, in general, most men felt a sense of permissibility toward her career. "She can work if she wants to," was the most common refrain. Only one student, the future Asian-American architect, mentioned the income his future wife might earn. Clearly, both women and men see the hus- band's job as essential to the economic well-being and survival of their future families and the wife's job as optional-a luxury they can choose to add on or take off at will.

In reality, three-fifths of all U.S. women with children today are in the labor force, and half of all mothers with infants under one year old are working outside the home. Although many of these women enjoy their jobs and want to work, many are also working for money. Two-thirds of U.S. women who work are single, divorced, or married to men who earn less than $15,000 a year. Their contribution to family income is not supplemental but essential. Even in middle-class families, the income of wives often makes a difference between economic marginality and a com- fortable standard of living. In 1985, the median income of couples where the wife did not work was $24,556; that of couples with the wife in the paid labor force was $36,431.20 Clearly, wives' incomes count and count substantially.

Missing, however, from both the women and the men we inter- viewed is a sense that joint incomes increasingly are necessary to raise a family, buy a home, and maintain a middle-class life-style. Although their parents were able to do this on a single income in the affluent fifties and sixties, they of the eighties and nineties will find it harder to maintain a similar life-style without both working. A family wage no longer supports a family. This they do not seem to realize.

Underlying both undergraduate women's and men's expecta- tions of the future, moreover, is the assumption that they will marry and stay happily married. In reality, most probably will marry, but many will not stay married. The statistics are over- whelming. About 90 percent of all U.S. women and men marry, but about half of all current and recent marriages end in divorce. Most divorced people (especially men) do eventually remarry, but the interlude between marriages is sometimes lengthy. Women can expect to spend 17.6 years of their adult life unmarried

(separated, divorced, or widowed) if they are white and 22.9 years if black.21 About one-fifth of all infants are now born to unmarried women, increasingly to women in their thirties, and about one out of every six families today is maintained by a woman. The income of single mothers, moreover, is significantly lower than that of married couples. In 1985, the median income of all U.S. families was $27,735; that of single mothers was $13,660.22 One of every thirteen families lives in poverty, but more than one of every three families maintained by a woman are poor. Most undergraduate women at Berkeley plan to marry and have children, but some un- doubtedly willfind themselves separated and divorced and raising their children alone. Although these female students conceive of their careers as luxuries, their careers may become essential not just for psychological but for economic reasons as well.

Consistently over the past twenty years, time-budget studies have reported that employed wives work ten to fifteeen hours more a week than their husbands. Averaging both time on the job and time spent on housework, employed women, in general, work about seventy to eighty hours a week; their husbands, on the other hand, work about sixty-five to seventy hours a week. The hours women work, moreover, increase dramatically when they have very small children with very large needs, but the hours men work are almost invariant, regardless of the number or ages of their children.23 Who does the housework and how equally that is shared between spouses is thus a major feminist issue-for the more hours women work, the less time they have to rest and recuperate and the greater the stress and strain upon them.24 We thus asked our respondents who in their future marriages would cook and clean.

Most of the students in the sample come from fairly traditional homes-their mothers were responsible for cooking, doing the dishes, and cleaning the house while their fathers made money and fixed things around the house. In this sense, these students, like so many of their generation, were exposed to a relatively gendered division of labor. Seven of the students (six of whom were men) come from homes where the mother was responsible for supporting the family as well, and eight come from homes where the father was significantly involved in childcare, mainly as a disciplinarian. But, in general, Mom took care of the kids and the house while Dad went out to work and mowed the lawn.

The women and men in this study, however, are part of a new, youger generation that has come to believe in equality and shar- ing. Much more than their fathers, the undergraduate men profess a willingness to help out at home; much more than their mothers, the women relinquish the desire to it all. Very few of them intend to replicate their parent's pattern. Even the most traditional of men are willing to help out with household chores; even the most tradi- tional of women expect this of them.

But "helping out" in many cases does not really mean "sharing equally." Although the undergraduate men are quite willing to share certain chores-like doing the dishes or cleaning the bath- room-they are reluctant to take on other chores-like cooking dinner or doing the laundry. Equality goes just so far. "It would be real convenient," said Rick, a white male, Christian and conser- vative, "if she [his ideal wife] enjoyed cooking because I don't par- ticularly like spending time cooking." Although Rick agreed to help out if she complained about doing it all, different talents, he felt, would naturally take them into different directions -he would do the heavy lifting around the house, she would do the cooking, laundry, and childraising. In fact, equality threatened this future engineer. Associating the career orientation of young women at Berkeley with rigidity, he backed away from them emo- tionally. He was afraid: "If the whole trend of the whole popula- tion goes that way [toward equality], I see myself suddenly not finding the person I want to get married to."

The women, on the other hand, are more likely to expect that all household chores (except perhaps getting the car repaired) will be shared equally with their future spouses. Although willing to trade one chore off for another, they are very much afraid of getting stuck with all the "shit work." "I'll be damned if I do double shift," said a black woman whose mother had raised two children alone while clerking in a department store. "I've brainwashed my fiance into doing his share," reported a young Chicana who had watched an older sister get divorced, partly over these issues. Only two students, a Chicana woman who was quite confused about the balance of work and family in her life and a white woman who de- fined herself as a "real traditionalist," were even willing to consider marrying a man who was not committed to an equal division of labor. Clearly, these undergraduate women are expecting an egalitarian division of labor around the house, but the men are still clinging to a more gendered division of labor -a division that ulti- mately reduces the amount of housework they do while increasing what their wives d0.25

We asked undergraduate men to define the concept "egalitarian." Half defied the term psychologically, in terms of mutual under- standing, respect, and shared decision making. The other half evaded the question. 'What's egalitarian?' asked one white man, "I think she would have more responsibility where the children are concerned." 'What do you mean by equal?" asked a Chicano stu- dent who also was not willing to do childcare despite watching other men do that in one radical student organization. "There are certain things I would expect my wife to take on," replied a black man, thinking more in terms of what she would contribute rather than in terms of what he would do. Only one man, an Asian- American whose mother had cleaned office buildings off and on throughout his chilhood, defied equality in terms of equally shar- ing in the work it takes to create a home, but this he did not feel was the "ideal" situation.

The women, on the other hand, are not so muddled. Eight of them, Chicana, black, Asian-American, and white alike, defined equality clearly -in terms of sharing the work, chores, and fian- cial responsibility around the house. Only one woman, a Chicana who felt her own mother had taken too many orders from her father, defied equality psychologically, in terms of equal respect, but even she anticipated an equal division of household labor.

So we asked undergraduate men directly-would they be will- ing to marry a woman who wanted them to do half the housework and childcare? 'Yes," said one, a white male and future real estate broker, "I could always hire someone." "It depends," said another, a Chicano and future engineer, "on the work situation, who's mak- ing more money, and how important money is to the relationship. I'd probably complain [about doing half] . . .but it depends on how much I liked her and how she asked. She'd have to make her point clear and explain things to me." A number of the men also ex- pressed the fear that their future wives might draw up charts or assign chores. "If two people understand each other," said a third, an Asian-American man who had grown up in a very comfortable upper-middle-class household, "you can be equal without having to divide work shifts." The men seem to feel that they will cooperate in doing housework as long as they are not told what to do and as long as what they do is not tallied and measured against their wives' contributions. Clearly, there is much ambivalence in men about sharing housework equally with their future wives, even among those strongly committed to egalitarian relationships.

BUT WHY HER? We asked our respondents not just who would cook and clean in their future marriages but who would take care of the children. If both were working, who would interrupt their career when the children were small, who would miss an important meeting at work when the children were sick, who would arrange for day- care? In all these cases-issues often of fundamental conflict and tension in homes of working parents-these undergraduate women and men are in complete agreement. This is her job. All the women we interviewed except one want to interrupt their careers for a significant period of time when their children are small, and all the men except one want their future wives to do just this. Half of the women and men agree it is the mother's (but not the father's) job to miss work when the children are sick, and

half feel it is primarily her job to make the daycare arrangements. In contrast, only four of the men are willing to stay home for any period when the children are smd, only two are willing to miss

work when the children are sick, and only one is willing to make daycare arrangements. Undergraduate women thus not only agree that they, as wives and mothers, should take primary responsibili- ty for the care of the children, but they also feel that men, as husbands and fathers, should not. The men concur.

Maternity leave in the United States normally is given for twelve weeks or less. Only about 4.0 percent of all U.S. working women, however, even are eligible for such leave; 60 percent are not. The undergraduate women in this sample, though, expect leaves that extend a year or two after their children are born. Four of the women we interviewed would like to take a year off for each child, five would like to stop working for up to five years, and one would even like to wait until her children enter junior high school before resuming her career. Only one, a very ambitious Chicana woman from a low-income family, was unwilling to interrupt her career for any time to stay home with the children.

These are not isolated findings. Two-thirds of the women Cata- lyst surveyed across the country in the spring of 1985 said they planned to take anywhere from four months to five years off from work after the birth of their children.26 Similarly, nearly three- fifths of senior women at Berkeley who responded to the spring 1985 mail survey said they planned leaves of six months or longer following the birth of their first child. Clearly, the majority of senior women across the country hope to be able to stop working for extended amounts of time when they have small children.27

Moreover, they do not seem to be aware of the costs of inter- rupted careers. Surveying the class of 1974, Francine Gordon and Myra Strober found that the starting salary of women and men MBA's was virtually identical-about $17,000 each. Four years later, Strober surveyed the same cohort and found that the men were now making significantly more than the women-$34,762 vs. $27,455. The only variable that explained the difference was noncontinuous work experience. Thirty-one percent of the wom- en but only 9 percent of the men had interrupted their careers for some period of time. On the average, respondents who were out of the labor force for one month or more suffered a reduction in in- come of $9,000, everything else held constant.28

Undergraduate women's expectations for combining childrais- ing with careers are thus predicated upon several unspoken assumptions: first, that they will marry and stay happily married to men whose incomes will allow them the option of working or not; second, that their future employers will tolerate extended leaves of absence; and third, that they will be able to resume their careers several months or years later at the same point at which they dropped them without significant cost to themselves. The se- cond and third of these assumptions, if not the first as well, are clearly false.

But why do these young women want to stay home, especially after having invested so much preparing for a career? The reasons they give, interestingly enough, are quite traditional. They say it's the woman's responsibility to take care of the kids, that this is what they want to do, and that their job will simply be more flexi- ble than their husband's job. "I think I assume a woman takes care of the kids," said one. "I'm not sure, but I trust myself more in the beginning." "I'd assume my husband's career would be such that he couldn't just pick up and leave," said a second. "My job," said a third, "is more flexible."

The men in this sense are just as traditional as the women. They were brought up to believe, they say, that it's the man's job to sup- port the family and the woman's to raise the children. Like the women, they too want one parent at home when the children are small. That parent, they believe, should be the mother. "My wife can take off," said one. "I would expect her to at first. It's a mother's instinct." "I can't have the baby," said a second. "If I did, I would stay home to take care of it. But she does, so she will do it." "I would expect her to stay home," said a third. "I guess it's male supremacy."

Certainly not every undergraduate we talked to believes that the woman should interrupt her career for the children. There are some, a minority, who feel parents should share this responsibili- ty. Several women, including the young Chicana moving into women's health law, hoped to trade time off with their future hus- bands. One young black man, who had been raised by a single mother, envisioned setting up a daycare co-op with fellow physi- cians at his future medical clinic. He, in fact, identified with women and had even taken a women's studies class. But these are not typical students. More typical are women who hope to stop working for a while and men who see their wives doing just that. Underlying women's talk about career and family, then, is a per- vasive sense that both may not be possible simultaneously, at least not when the children are young. This comes out not so much in a language of "equality" but in a language of "sa~rifice."~~

Because they are the ones who want the family, the women reason, they should be the ones who make career sacrifices for that. The men concur. "If she is the one who wants the family," said one male, "there it goes right there." Missing from both is the awareness that men want families as much as women. But women anticipate making career sacrifices in order to have that family; men do not.

What is different between the undergraduate women and men we interviewed, then, is not their mutual desire for children and family but the projections each places upon the other. Men see women as wanting children more, as having the instinctual capa- bilities to care for them better, and therefore as having to make career sacrifices for them. Women see men as not wanting chil- dren as much, as lacking parental capabilities (especially when the children are small), and therefore as exempt from career sacrifices. Underlying these mutual projections, of course, is the belief that men will be the primary breadwinners in their future families, women the primary parents.

Certainly pragmatic economic reasons do exist for men to pur- sue their careers and for women to fall behind once children are born because men as a whole generally earn more than women. The demands of small babies for constant care also conflict with work demands. One simply cannot do both simultaneously, and difficult choices must be made -whether to pursue a career and put the children into daycare for six, eight, or twelve hours a day, or whether to forego career opportunities and devote the majority of one's time and energy to child development. More often than not, this choicelcrunch falls upon the woman.30 Both the women and men we interviewed anticipate this "choice" will be hers to make -that she has a choice and indeed that it is a relatively easy one to make. But is it?

One young Chicana woman, perhaps more career-oriented than most, said she wants to wait until her early thirties before having children. Planning a career in radio or TV journalism, Jenny anticipates putting long and hard hours into work throughout her twenties. Like so many of her peers, she wants "to get my career established first," then take time off, preferably a year, to raise her children. But she wants two children, not one, which means two years off from work, not one. Moreover, Jenny emphatically feels she would not take time off from work to stay home and take care of small children if that meant lowering her standard of living or foregoing a possible promotion. She had grown up poor; her father had been a ranch hand. But when asked to choose between spend- ing more time at home with her children or more time at work developing her career, she chose time with her kids. 'They'll be most important," she said, "when they're infants."

Another young woman who was interviewing with different medical schools plans to have two children in her late twenties, after she has finished medical school. She would then like either to take the "early years" of her children's life (from birth through junior high school) off from work or perhaps work part-time. Born in Japan, raised in northern California, Eileen had received, like so many of her peers, conflicting messages from her parents: "Get married, have children, family comes first," and "Do your best; succeed; always be able to support yourself." Encouraging academic achievement, her mother had exempted her from any chores around the house to give her more time to study. Valuing work success highly, sturdy and intelligent, this young Asian- American woman wants to do something with her life that she can be proud of and, in retrospect, view as meaningful. She wants a career her mother never had, yet she also wants a family. But in case of conflict, she would, she said, eventually choose a happy relationship with her husband and children over a successful career: "I'll be a full-time parent and part-time doctor." Thus, she planned to place her husband's career over her own. "If a dinner party or social event comes up," said this future doctor, "his needs will be met first and my career will be second."

Although perhaps not so blatant, most of the women in this sam- ple are full of similar contradictions. They would like to get their careers established before having children, and they would like to have children in their late twenties while they are still young. They thus convince themselves it will take only four or five years to establish a career and that they can easily leave and reenter the labor force once their career is established. "It would be better," said one, echoing the sentiments of many, "to leave after I was already established." She was referring to her late twenties. Keep- ing themselves ignorant of the amount of effort, commitment, and continuity necessary to build a career thus keeps so many under- graduate women from confronting, with full force, the structure of the dilemma they are confronting.

Clearly, some women do know that commitment to their careers will deepen as they invest more of their time, their energy, and themselves into their work and that the conflicts between work and family will intensify, not become easier. But they have no solutions either. Said Clare, the very ambitious young Chicana woman planning to enter a prestigious MBA program, then the world of high finance: "Idon't picture the child as putting a dent in my career. At what time can I afford to take time off from my career?" But when asked to choose between spending more time at work developing her career or more time at home with her children, she chose time at home. "Idon't see myself," she said, "as being able to develop my career and raise children at the same time." Her final solution was to commit herself to some long, hard, and sleepy hours at work-in the hope that this would last only a couple of months.

Contradictions thus abound in the way undergraduate women think about marriage, career, and family. Even as they plan to move into the labor force and concentrate on career growth, they simultaneously plan to move out of the labor force and concen- trate on childraising. Their resolutions thus are tentative, fleeting, based partly on the hope that the conflicts will disappear with time-or can be pushed ahead into the future. Not anticipating that such conflicts will touch them directly, undergraduate men are moving full-steam ahead -thinking about concrete job offers, starting salaries, professional training, and promotional paths within their chosen fields. The women are hesitating. Their dif- ferential relation to family gives them pause to think, questions yet to face and to resolve.

Career paths, however, do not usually allow for such pauses. A career, especially a career in the male-dominated professional and technical sector, is distinguished from a job by its demands for training and responsibility as well as by its potential for status, promotion, and high pay. Access to these rewards is usually predi- cated upon long hours of continuous, committed, uninterrupted work. Most of the women we interviewed anticipate putting long, continuous, uninterrupted hours into their work up until their childraising years-but not during those years. Like the men, the women want to enter highly paid, very demanding careers, but unlike the men they do not anticipate congruity between their future career and family life. Like the men, they want to have families, but unlike the men, they are charged (and charge them- selves) with reconciling these two, often conflicting, domains. They resolve this conflict between work and family (a conflict they are already experiencing) by redefining career. They hope, that is, to be able to enter good, well-paying jobs and to find satisfaction and fulfillment in work but also to be able to move in and out of the job world, responding ultimately not so much to the demands of their careers as to the needs of their families and children. They are talking career but thinking job.

In sum, a sense of voluntarism and permissibility pervades women's sense of career but not men's. The men, for one, struggle harder in their twenties to define their future careers. If they have to work for the rest of their lives, they want to be doing something they like. They expect their future wives will accede to this and support them in their choices. Their emphasis upon long-term, uncomplicated, continuous attachment to the labor force is predi- cated upon having support systems (such as wives) that allow them to fully concentrate on their work. Hence, they expect to take less responsibility for the home and especially for the chil- dren. They are quite ambivalent about egalitarian relationships and cling to the idea that they will be the primary breadwinners in their future families with all the privileges this has traditionally en- tailed.

The women, on the other hand, do not struggle as hard as the men in their early twenties to define their occupational choices. They are less clear about what they want to do and less certain about entry-level salaries and promotional paths in their chosen fields. They expect to work for several years after graduation, then interrupt their careers for several years of childraising. They ex- pect to have husbands who support them in this choice and jobs waiting for them when they are ready to return to work. A career to them, then, is a job they can opt in or out of, something they do not primarily for money or for advancement but mainly to gain a measure of fulfillment, independence, and satisfaction out of life. In order to have this choice, they are willing to give priority to their husbands' careers, to move for the sake of their husbands' jobs, and to take upon themselves primary responsibility for rais- ing the children. They say they want egalitarian relationships but ultimately are willing to trade responsibility for the children for economic support. But will such options be available to them? Will the occupational world permit them to have rewarding careers coupled with time off for raising children? Will they all be happily married to men who can afford a wife and children at home?

This is, admittedly, a small study of a select group of students, but it raises important questions. Like their counterparts across the country, these young women want careers, but they also, like their mothers before them, want extended amounts of time with their children. They sense the doors to the professions have open- ed to them, they feel the women's movement has helped to raise their aspirations, but they fail to sense the difficulties that lie ahead. Wi they, however, after tasting the rewards and oppor- tunities that come with challenging professional jobs, be so willing to give those jobs up, even temporarily, for the sake of their children? Will their own emerging sense of self accommodate itself so easily to the relatively traditional patterns of family life they hope to construct? Will compromises with egalitarian ideals bring them the children, the families, and the careers they simultaneously want?


This is a revised version of a paper presented at the 1987 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Chicago. It is based upon findings from the Work and Family Research Project sponsored by the Center for the Study, Education, and Ad- vancement of Women at the University of California at Berkeley. I would like to thank Joan Skolnick who, as acting director of the center, inspired the project and Valerie Estes who conducted a survey of senior women at Berkeley as part of the first phase of this project. I would also like to thank Gregg Thomson of the Office of Student Research on campus who provided technical support and advice and Ellen Matthews of the Women's Center for her unfailing practical support. Maresi Nerad, Ron Rothbart, and two anonymous readers provided very helpful criticism and suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper.

The bulk of this article is based upon interviews conducted in the fall of 1985 by the following student interns at the center: Todd Berliner, Ami Bloom, Michelle Casino, Barri Kay, Jiyoung Kim, Joan Lambert, Charlynne Merrill, Jane Morrison, Pamela Moses, Hannah Schwarzschild, and Gail Simpson. Barri Kay, in addition, coded the in- terview data in the spring of 1986. All the interviewing and coding rests upon their in- dividual and collective efforts, their enthusiasm and interest. A special thanks is owed them as well.

1. In the spring of 1985, the Women's Center at the University of California surveyed a sample of graduating senior women by mail about their plans for combining career and family life (N= 132; response rate=52 percent). Nine-tenths of those responding in- dicated they expected to marry and have children; four-fifths expected a career as well. For a description of the survey findings, see Valerie Estes, "Women, Work and Family Research Project: The Project to Date" (Berkeley, Calif.: Center for the Study, Educa- tion, and Advancement of Women, 1985).

Beginning in the spring of 1985 and continuing for eighteen months, Catalyst surveyed undergraduates at eight colleges and universities across the country, and received complete data from six. These schools differed in size and background of stu- dent body, highest degree conferred, type of surrounding community, funding struc- ture and region, yet the career and family expectations of students attending these col- leges and universities are remarkably similar to Berkeley students. For a description of the survey, see Catalyst, "New Roles for Men and Women: A Report on Educational In- tervention with College Students" (New York: Catalyst, 250 Park Avenue South, New York 10003).

Mary C. Regan and Helen Roland, "Rearranging Family and Career Priorities," Journal 0fMarriage and the Family 47 (Nov. 1985): 985-92; Bruce C. Straits, "Factors Influenc- ing College Women's Responses to Decision-Making Vignettes," Journal of Marriage and the Family 47 (Aug. 1985): 585-95; Gayle Kimball, "Life after College: Combining a Career and a Family," (Chico: Women's Studies, California State University at Chico, 1986). Mirra Komarovsky, in Women in College: Shaping New Feminine Identities (New York: Basic Books, 1985), discusses how the college experience raises women's expecta- tions about their ability to combine careers and motherhood.

The divorce rate rose from 9.2 per thousand women to 22.6 per thousand women between 1960 and 1980, and the birthrate dropped from 118 to 68 per thousand women; see Victor R. Fuchs, "Sex Differences in Economic Well-Being," Science 232 (25 Apr. 1986): 459-64.

In 1985, 37 percent of all U.S. households were traditional married couples, 43 per- cent were dual earner couples, 14 percent were families headed by a woman, 4 percent were families headed by a man. For related statistics, see U.S. Bureau of the Census,

Money Income and Poverty Status of Families and Persons in the United States: 1985 (Ad- vance Data from the March 1986 Current Population Survey), Current Population Reports, ser. p-60, no. 154 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1986). For comparative data on the com- position of U.S. households, 1950-1980, see Kathleen Gerson, Hard Choices: How Women Decide about Work, Career, and Motherhood (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), table A.6, 237.

The number of women earning law degrees went from 7.3 to 28.5 percent between 1970 and 1978, the number earning M.D.'s from 9.2 to 23.1 percent; and the number earning Ph.D.'s in the physical sciences from 6.6 to 13.4 percent. See Gerson, 238-39.

Howard Hayghe, "Rise in Mothers' Labor Force Activity Includes Those with In- fants,"Monthly Labor Review 109 (Feb. 1986): 43-45.

The American Council on Education (ACE) annually surveys entering freshmen at colleges and universities across the country. Over two-thirds of entering nonminority freshmen (64 percent of the women and 68 percent of the men) at the University of California at Berkeley who responded to the ACE survey in 1984 rated "raising a family" as "very important" or "essential" compared with less than one-half (44 percent of the women and 45 percent of the men) ten years earlier. Simultaneously, four-fifths (82 per- cent of the women and 79 percent of the men) felt that "being an authority in one's field was also very important or essential in 1984; this compares with only three-fifths in 1973. Data for minority students show similar trends. Clearly, undergraduate women and men alike in the 1980s greatly value both career and family goals. See Rose Scherini and Gregg Thomson, "Berkeley Students from 1964 to 1984: What Are the Differences and What Difference Does It Make? (Paper presented at the twenty-fifth Annual Forum of the Association for Institutional Research, Portland, Oregon, 28 Apr. to 1 May 1985).

Thirty-one interviews were actually completed. One interview, that of a fifty-year- old grandmother returning for her B.A. after raising her family, was excluded from the final analysis because her life issues are different from those of undergraduates in their early twenties. The interviews were generally held at the Women's Center on the Berkeley campus and lasted anywhere from forty-five minutes to three hours; all were taped. Names of students to be interviewed were randomly drawn from a larger list of names of all seniors who had given permission to release their names and addresses. This is not a random sample of all graduating seniors. Students who do not give address release permission most probably differ in significant, but undetermined, ways from those who do. Gregg Thomson of the Office of Student Research estimated that address release permission rates for senior women vary from 32 percent for black women to 54 percent for white women. Eligibility in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) is based on low family income and lack of family background in education. Whenever possible, we selected an EOP student for interviewing over a non-EOP student. Approx- imately 5 percent of all Berkeley students have EOP status; three of the students in this sample (a black woman, a Chicano man, and a white man) are EOP students.

In terms of gender, 54 percent of all Berkeley undergraduates in 1985 were male; 46 percent were female. In terms of race and ethnicity, 3.4 percent of the graduating senior class in the fall of 1985 were black or Afro-American; 5.1 percent were Hispanic (Chicano, Mexican-American, Latino, or Spanish); 21.9 percent were Asian-American;

0.3 percent were native American; and 62.5 percent were white. The remaining students either declined to state ethnicity or were foreign students. For general descrip- tive statistics of Berkeley students, see Office of Student Research, "A Profile of Students at Berkeley" (Berkeley: University of California-Berkeley, January 1985), and "Undergraduate Statistics for the University of California" (Berkeley: University of California-Berkeley, Fall 1984).

Three students declined to state their political preference. Throughout the rest of this article, students who do not answer a question are not reported in the text.

Of the eleven students who reported family incomes over $60,000, five are white, three Asian-American, and two are Chicano (including one woman with a Hispanic rather than Mexican-American background). Of the ten students who reported family income below $20,000, two are black, four Chicano, one is Asian-American, and three are white. In general, family income and ethnicity are highly correlated with each other. According to the 1985 ACE survey, the median income of entering fall freshmen at Berkeley was $31,470 for blacks; $34,170 for Chicanos; $47,900 for Asian- Americans; and $59,010 for white students. See Office of Student Research, "1985 Entering Fall Freshmen with Low and Moderate Estimated Annual Parental Income, Table prepared by Gregg Thomson" (Berkeley: University of California-Berkeley, 29 Oct. 1986).

Admission to Berkeley is largely based upon academic achievement, such as SAT scores and GPA's, which tend to be correlated with family income. Even so, a higher proportion of Berkeley freshmen come from wealthier homes than is true of freshmen either at all public universities nationally or at highly selective public universities. Due partly to inflation, partly to increased selectivity in admission, and partly to relatively high median income levels in California as a whole, the tendency is for students at Berkeley, including minority students, increasingly to come from affluent backgrounds. See Office of Student Research, "Parental Income of New Freshmen at U.C. Berkeley, 1975-1983" (Berkeley: University of California-Berkeley, 29 June 1984).

This estimated wage gap is all too common. Francine Gordon and Myra Strober surveyed the 1974 MBA class at Stanford-the first MBA class to include more than five women-and found that the men expected to earn significantly more at the peak of their careers than the women ($60,000 vs. $40,000 in 1974 dollars). Catalyst similarly reports that undergraduate men and women they interviewed expected to be earning almost

the same immediately following graduation ($19,354 vs. $18,296); ten years later, however, the women expected to be earning 25 percent less than the men ($40,000 vs. $30,000). See "Initial Observations on a Pioneer Cohort: 1974 Women MBA's," Sloan Management Review 19 (Winter 1978): 15-23; Catalyst, 29-31.
Andrew Hacker, "Women at Work," The New York Review of Books, 14 Aug. 1986, 26-32.

Fuchs, 462-63. Fuchs also found that women's earnings drop with each additional child, perhaps because women trade job flexibility for wages, perhaps because they can devote less than maximum effort to their jobs. In contrast, he found no systematic rela- tionship between men's earnings and number of children; in fact, men-with children earn more than those without children.

It may not, however, be the presence of children per se that depresses women's earn- ings. Employers may well discriminate in favor of men with children by paying them more; simultaneously, they may discriminate against women with children, expecting them to be less productive. Replying to Fuchs, Barbara Bergman, in fact, argues that if

U.S. women had had no children in 1983 instead of half a child apiece on the average, their earnings would have increased from 67 percent of men's to 69 percent. Employer discrimination, not children, she argues, explains much more of the sex gap in wages. See her "Letters: The Economic Well-Being of Women," Science 233 (1 Aug. 1986): 510.

Thirteen of the men interviewed in the fall of 1985 but only five of the women cited "money" as their primary reason for working. On the other hand, only four of the men but eight of the women cited "independence" or "self-fulfillment" as their primary reason for working. Similarly, of the 132 women who responded to the spring 1985 survey of senior women at Berkeley, 92 percent said "self-fulfillment" was a very important reason for working, 64 percent said "independence," but only 21 percent said "money" was very important. Clearly, many of these women do not expect to be working for money; ironically, however, those who have working mothers say money is her primary reason for working.

Two women in the sample were already married and one man was gay. The gay man also expected to be in a committed relationship, and he, more than many of his heterosexual peers, was especially articulate about the value of equality between part- ners. Because most of the students expect to marry, and because most of the following questions focus around dynamics in heterosexual relationships, the responses of the one self-identified gay man are excluded from the rest of the analysis. This is not to deny the value or importance of gay relationships between either women or men but simply to suggest that such relationships raise questions beyond the scope of the present analysis.

Three students anticipate earnings will be equal; seven declined to answer the question.

Money Income and Poverty Status of Families and Persons in the United States, 6.

Men also divorce as often as women, but they tend to remarry more often and not outlive their wives. Hence, comparable figures for men are significantly less-5.5 adult years unmarried for white males and 7.8 years for black males; see Thomas Espen- shade, "Marriage Trends in America: Estimates, Implications, and Underlying Causes," Population and Development Review 11 Uune 1985): 193-245.

Money Income and Poverty Status of Families and Persons in the United States, 6.

Heidi I. Hartman, "The Family As the Locus of Gender, Class, and Political Strug- gle: The Example of Housework," Signs 6 (Spring 1981): 366-94.

Shelley Coverman, in "Gender, Domestic Labor Time, and Wage Inequality," American Sociological Review 28 (October 1983): 623-37, reports that time spent in housework and childcare also depresses wages. This is true for both men and women, and for women in working-class jobs as well as professional and managerial jobs. But it is the wages of women in professional and managerial jobs that are most depressed by

hours spent on housework and childcare. Equality of time spent doing housework thus not only has psychological but economic overtones as well, and in very real terms af- fects power relationships between husbands and wives.

The men we interviewed, for the most part, are willing to get the car repaired, wash dishes, and clean the bathroom, but cooking and laundry, they feel, is primarily the wife's responsibility. The women, on the other hand, believe that all household chores-cooking, cleaning, dishes, and laundry -should be shared equally. They do feel ambivalent, however, about the car; five are willing to share that too, but seven would prefer their future husbands took care of it.

Only one-third of the women Catalyst interviewed plan maternity leaves of three months or less. Similarly, four-fifths of the women Diana Zuckerman surveyed at the Seven Sisters colleges in 1981 wanted to work part-time (or not at all) when their children were small. See her "Career and Life Goals of Freshmen and Sophomores," Radcliffe Quarterly, September 1982, 17-19; also Catalyst, 35-38.

Undergraduate men, on the other hand, do not plan any time at all for parental leaves. At most the men in the Catalyst sample, for example, expected four weeks off from work, two-thirds of them wanting no more than a week for parental leave. See Catalyst, 35-38.

See Gordon and Strober; Myra Strober, "The MBA: Same Passport to Success for Women and Men?" in Women in the Workplace, ed. Phyllis A. Wallace (Boston: Auburn House, 1982), 25-44.

Charlynne Merrill, one of the student research interns in the fall of 1985, pointed out how pervasive is the language of "sacrifice" in the undergraduate women's inter- views.

Parents certainly can combine their careers and share childraising equally, and some do. More would like to. Five of the women we interviewed, for example, would like to trade time off with their future spouses when the children are small, but only one of the men visualized himself doing so. The problems are economic, cultural, and practical. Economically speaking, families lose more income when husbands take ex- tended leaves from work than wives; culturally speaking, women and men alike both see mothers as having more responsibility for small children than fathers; and practical- ly speaking, extended parental leaves are still largely unavailable for men. Thus, husbands and wives, even when both work, tend to specialize-one seeing himself as primary breadwinner, the other seeing herself as primary nurturer. See Arlie Hochschild with Anne Machung, The Second Shift: Inner Lives of Two-Job Couples (New York: Viking Press, 1989). Most of the undergraduates we interviewed reflect as well this dichotomous way of viewing work and family choices.

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