Work Life Balance

Teach Your Daughters They Can Be Anything They Want — Except Lawyers, Doctors And Engineers

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shutterstock_57014537Every time I see one of my girlfriends in particular she asks me a million questions to figure out how I’m coping after leaving my high-paying prestigious job. She doesn’t seem to fully understand that – despite the harsh pay cut – I am far happier and better off than I was working 50-60 hours a week while still trying to spend meaningful time with my two little kids. To be fair, I’ve never really understood how she does it either – being a full time working mom with two children of her own. She’s a teacher and I’m a lawyer — and it turns out our chosen professions may have a lot to do with it.

If your daughters entertain any aspiration of becoming working moms down the road, start telling them now to steer clear of male-dominated industries. A recent study shows moms suffer more than anyone else from working overtime in these types of careers.

The Indiana University (IU) study revealed that working mothers are more likely than other employees to leave jobs in male-dominated fields because of the long hours they are expected to work.

In both of our professions, my teacher friend and I are no stranger to hard work and long hours. The key distinction, according to this study, is the company we keep.

“Mothers were 52 percent more likely than other women to leave their jobs if they were working a 50-hour week or more, but only in occupations dominated by men,” said Youngjoo Cha, the study’s author and an assistant professor of sociology at IU Bloomington. “Many of these are lucrative fields, such as law, medicine, finance and engineering.”

But only in occupations dominated by men? A-ha! That strikes a nerve for me. I was never afraid of hard work, but something happened after I had kids — something that didn’t seem to be happening to my other full-time working mom friends. I can’t believe I’m saying this in the year 2013, but from the results of this study it seems that jobs in medicine, engineering, the law or finance really are no jobs for women.

Cha believes the study’s results show how overwork contributes to occupational segregation and stalled efforts to narrow the gender gap in white-collar workplaces. She noted that many of the mothers who leave these jobs exit the job market entirely because of the lack of suitable part-time positions in these fields.

Again, just like my experience. I’ve been shocked by the complete lack of part-time options for lawyers. The best option I’ve found to keep myself relevant in the legal field is contract work, but it doesn’t offer competitive wages, health insurance or time off – not to mention the complete lack of job security (I mean, who gets that anyway?).

It might be too late for me, but I can only hope that shedding light on these issues – such as the culture of facetime and the stigma of part-time workers as “slackers” – that are causing the gender gap in white-collar careers might help my daughter. Otherwise the harsh reality of women in male-dominated industries means I’m going to teach my daughter to be a strong, opinionated, independent woman – who stays far away from the fields of medicine, law and finance. Sorry honey.

Although with the invention of Goldie Blox and the surging interest of little girls in that industry, I revise my title and refuse to give up hope on the future of engineering.

(photo: Gelpi JM/Shutterstock)