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WORK AND FAMILY: HOW GEN Y PLANS TO DO IT


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July 26, 2006

WORK AND FAMILY: HOW GEN Y PLANS TO DO IT

Anne Tergesen

Are today’s female undergraduates more likely to give up their careers to raise children than their predecessors? Last September, The New York Times surprised more than a few readers when it reported that nearly 60 percent of the female undergraduates it surveyed at Yale University planned to stop working to raise children. The article was criticized for its “survey techniques, particularly the small size of (the) survey pool,” according to The Yale Herald. When the Herald “sent its own admittedly unscientific poll to 5,388 undergraduates,”--1,256 of whom responded—it found that “close to 30 percent of female respondents said they planned or hoped to be stay-at-home mothers,” versus the 60 percent figure in the Times’ survey.

Now comes more evidence that rebuts the Times article. Amy Sennett, a member of Princeton University’s class of 2006, reports in the July 19th issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly that a mere 3% of her female classmates plan to be “homemakers” in ten years. Sennett surveyed 51% of her classmates to collect data for her senior thesis.

Interestingly, Sennett’s results aren’t so different from those of a similar survey, compiled more than 30 years ago, of 270 members of the class of 1975. When Princeton alumnae, Barbara Zipperman, polled her classmates in 1975, she found that “54% of the women, but only 26% of the men, foresaw a possible conflict between work and family,” the article reports. At the time, nearly 75% of those women said they expected to work part-time.

Compare that to the class of 2006, where higher percentages of both the men and women anticipate a work-family conflict--62% of the women and 33% of the men, to be exact. About 60% of those female undergrads expect to work part-time, Sennett reports. (The figure for the men: 13%.)

How did real life work out for the class of 1975? It turns out that 58% of the women in the class actually worked part-time when their children were young, versus just 4% of the men. Other women “say they pursued their careers less aggressively than they had intended, and several speak of their lack of time for anything other than career and family,” Sennett writes.

It will be interesting to see how the class of 2006 fares. It’s clear that these young women are far more committed to the notion of combining work and family than the Times article would have us believe. The bigger question: Will Corporate America provide them with high-quality part-time opportunities?

09:26 AM

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How can corporations (for profit and nonprofit alike) organize work to exploit the possibilities of part-time professionals? Part-time work is appealing for young people raising families, for late-career folks seeking meaningful work in balance with their own pursuits, and for those exploring independent employment who can still benefit from and contribute to a corporate connection.

We have been exploring how part-time work might help some of these people make the transition from business careers to nonprofit careers at 2Nonprofits.org. Join the discussion thread at http://2nonprofits.org/part_time_work

Posted by: Rob Johnston at July 26, 2006 11:13 AM

Interesting. It would instructive, I think, to have a list of a number of different types of part-time jobs. I'll bet there are some unusual ones that some executives would necessarily think of. Often, with a little creative thinking, there might be part-time jobs that they might not have thought of.

Posted by: Charles Warner at August 7, 2006 03:58 PM

I remember when I was a stay-at-home mom and hated it! All I wanted to do was go back to work, use my brain and make a difference in a company. Being a Human Resources professional is a challenging and demanding job but I love it. When my daughter was born, however, I decided to spend some time with her before going back to work. The first 12 months or so were great and I barely had time to eat three meals per day and do all the chores so I did not miss work. However, by the time she was two, I was really missing work. She is now almost five and I have been back to work for just about two years. The first job I had was great and I managed my job and family just fine. I left and went to a major bank and find myself bored and whishing I was a stay-at-home mom again. The position is in Human Resources in a department that is over populated with professionals all vying for the same duties. I don't know if I will go back to staying home with my darlings but I know there is a better way than biting my nails 5 out of 8 hours per day!

Posted by: Prudence Allen at August 25, 2006 07:07 PM

There is a better way. There is a better way, I kept on telling this to myself last year when I was at my JOB. The commute used to kill me. DC has the worst traffic during rush hour, and because of that I was hardly spending 15 minutes with my son before he went to sleep, he was year and a half then. I'm seeing more and more Gen Y'ers starting their own businesses and working from home, which before was mainly reserved for Stay at home mom's. I agree with Prudence, in the corporate world, there are people fighting for the same duties and there;s lots of back-stabbing. Since last year Sept 2005, I have worked for myself and am living a fantastic lifestyle. It was that mindset that I had to re-program and burn the bridges. Don't know about you guys but I thought that was the best way to go. This site can point you in the right direction: http://www.1Incomeopportunity.com

Posted by: Rex Patel at September 14, 2006 08:36 PM


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