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Traditional Gender Roles Won’t End with Millennials

Millennials have been praised for their progressive stance on issues, and reports have led us to believe that traditional gender roles will end with this generation. But a study reveals this notion may be overly optimistic.

Millennials have been praised for their progressive stance on social issues, and reports have led us to believe that traditional gender roles will end with this generation. But J. Maureen Henderson of Forbes writes on a study that reveals this notion may be overly optimistic.

The Harvard Business School has been following their alumnae over the years, and have found that female graduates’ ambitions are taking a back seat to men’s. In a survey of alumni, male and female graduates both shared ambitious goals for their careers and personal lives. But, for female graduates, their aspirations fell short if they stopped to settle down and have a family.

Only a quarter of female graduates between the ages of 26 to 31 said they would allow their husbands’ careers to take priority over their own, while 50 percent of men claimed their careers would take precedence over their wives’. The surveys seem to reveal a majority of men still hold more traditional views of family life. What’s more, two-thirds of men expected that their wives would take over primary child care. Women, however, had a more progressive outlook, as 42 percent expected to do most of the child-rearing.

“What these men and women expect at this early stage in their careers and lives looks as incompatible—and unrealistic—as it was for earlier generations.”

If surveys from older graduates are any indication, the women may end up shifting their goals in order to be more in-line with their husbands’. However, the researchers indicate that, compared to older generations, Millennial men are less expectant for their careers to take priority. A third of male graduates also expected to split child care 50/50—compare that to 22 percent of Gen X men and 16 percent of Baby Boomers. However, in the workplace, these older generations still rule the roost, where there may be different notions of what work-life balance means for female Millennials. One 30-year-old alumnae confessed to researchers:

“I have thought about going to interviews without my [wedding and engagement] rings on so that an interviewer doesn’t get a preconceived notion of my dedication based upon where I might be in my life stage.”

Navigating a career and family life is not without its sacrifices, but the question will be whether future men and women will be willing to make those decisions together without falling back on traditional perceptions to guide their decisions. The idea of traditional roles still exists, the question will be be whether it keeps shrinking with each passing generation. The researchers hope that these findings will lead to more discussions based on honest expectations rather than it being based in optimism.

“In the end, we found not just achievement and satisfaction gaps between men and women, but a real gap between what women expect as they look ahead to their careers and where they ultimately land. The men and women who graduate from HBS set out with much in common—MBAs, high ambitions, and preparation for leadership. Perhaps it’s time for more-candid conversations—at home, at work, and on campus—about how and why their paths unfold so differently.”

Read more at Forbes

Photo Credit: Startup Stock Photos/Flickr


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