New research demonstrates, ONCE AGAIN, that women actively undermine their own careers because it’ll hurt their marriage prospects.
Every day, I hear about or read another piece of research that supports how women participate in their own subjugation, often unconsciously. It makes me so angry that these things are still being found today. I get beside myself when I learn that yet another behavior women have is undermining their careers, their livelihoods, and their independence.
All right, my headline is a little sensational. Of course, women are free to choose marriage over a career if they so want. But forthcoming research by Harvard economists shows that women trade off their career ambitions to remain “marriageable”.
Basically, single women responded to questions differently if they thought a man would see the answers or participated less in class when there were men in the room. Single women who thought their answers would be seen by men lowered their desired salaries by 18k a year, on average. Single women who thought their answers would be seen by men decreased how many hours they said they wanted to work every week, or days they wanted to travel every month.
If the women thought their answers were anonymous, they responded like the married/non-single women, with higher salaries and more ambitious careers.
And we’re not talking about any old random women here. We’re talking about MBA students. We’re talking driven, ambitious women who chose business, a notoriously masculine field, as their career path.
Quoting the article in HBR:
While extrapolating to other settings is beyond the scope of this paper, elite female MBA students are a select group, one that presumably places a higher value on career success than the general female population does. This suggests that the effects of marriage market signaling are perhaps even larger in other contexts.
Okay, let’s unpack this. The researchers found this effect in FEMALE MBA STUDENTS WHO CARE ABOUT THEIR CAREERS AND ARE, BY DEFINITION, AMBITIOUS. If female MBA students reduce their apparent ambitions and decrease their class participation and assertiveness in the presence of men, what does it mean for the rest of us?
Our analysis of participation grades indicated that unmarried female students had substantially lower class participation grades than married ones.
Single women are literally shutting themselves up because it might cost them a partner. Because we know, from a study done in 2007, that men prefer women who earn less and who are less ambitious than them.
I want to note that this study apparently didn’t control for sexual orientation (the full thing isn’t published yet, but the article doesn’t mention it and probably assumes heterosexuality.) Do bisexual, queer or lesbian women undermine themselves to the same degree as the heterosexual ones? The article doesn’t answer that question — and I would be curious to see.
Even though women have access to all kinds of careers that were unheard of only 30 or 40 years ago, we still have this stupid, ingrained, socially normative idea that we should somehow make ourselves lesser than in order to please men.
We should make ourselves quieter.
We should make ourselves less successful.
We should make ourselves more available.
We should make ourselves less ambitious.
We should make ourselves less leader-like.
We should make ourselves always less, always weaker, always smaller, always non-threatening to the poor men who can’t handle the fact that a woman could be more successful than him.
This is an empirically observable fact, not only borne out of social feminist theory but out of the scientific method of psychology and behavioral studies. Not that feminism needs more studies supporting its stance, because, OMG, like, where have you been? but we have yet another confirmation of our subjugation and our own participation in the system that oppresses us, that forces us to achieve less than our full potential.
At the end of the article, the authors suggest that more research is needed to develop interventions to reduce or eliminate this effect.
Here are some suggestions:
REDUCE THE IMPORTANCE OF MARRIAGE, CELEBRATE SINGLE WOMEN
Men do not feel like they must give up anything for marriage. Women are asked, constantly, to give up things for marriage, potential earnings being only one of them.
If only we reduced the importance of marriage in a woman’s life, maybe more women would feel free to make choices that work for her, not for her and a future maybe husband. And given that half of today’s marriages end in divorce, is it really worth risking future career prospects on, literally, the flip of a coin?