Matters to a Degree

Finding enough time to do all that's needed to advance a career and plan or tend to a family is a challenge. With the feminization of psychology, an APAGS membership of 75 percent women, and increasing numbers of men taking on child-care responsibilities while balancing homelife, academics and a budding career, the interplay of work and family continues to be the centerpiece-- and primary struggle--for many.

Women's aspirations and opportunities

Not all women aspire to leadership or executive positions, but for the increasing numbers that do, the prospects are daunting. According to a survey conducted by the nonprofit research and advisory group Catalyst, which specializes in helping companies advance women, women in executive-level jobs continue to serve as the "family manager" and still spend nearly twice as many hours on household and child-care tasks as do men in similar jobs.

However, female executives at 1,000 of the largest U.S. corporations report that they have much more in common with male executives in terms of their professional aspirations than in the past. Half of the women surveyed said that they aspire to CEO positions and are willing to make temporary sacrifices such as delaying marriage, children and relationships to reach their career goals. For the large numbers of us who have children or are unwilling or unable to continue delaying a family, what's the outlook?

Opportunities for women in executive-level leadership positions are still lacking, and there remain inequities between men and women in comparable positions. Even though 49.5 percent of all employed managers and professionals are women, they still tend to only manage other women. Sadly, even the highest paid female corporate executives still earn only 68 percent of the salary paid to their male counterparts. But organizations that include women on their senior management teams show greater improvement in overall company performance. For instance, Catalyst found that 62 percent of companies with women on their executive staff experienced growth in their market shares, compared with only 39 percent of companies with no women in these positions.

The 'Daddy Track'

Fathers spend 50 percent more time with their children today than 25 years ago, according to a new study by the Families and Work Institute. But, what is the experience of professional men on the "daddy track"--those interested in taking on more of the child-care responsibilities while maintaining or enhancing their careers?

Research by Julie Holliday Wayne, PhD, of Wake Forest University, shows that men who take advantage of Family Medical Leave are regarded as less conscientious employees than those who don't and women who do. According to the Families and Work Institute study, men in dual-income families report that they now share more equally in family responsibilities and are experiencing "burnout" and the inability to juggle work and family effectively.

Given workplace perceptions related to gender roles, how viable a choice are flexible work arrangements for men wanting to stay in a growing career while carving out more time for their families? A recent Department of Labor survey showed that 42.6 percent of men who were considering paternity leave cited "fear of hurting career advancement" as the No. 1 reason for forgoing the leave.

Closing the gender gap

Having a job schedule that allows for family time is more important to young men than money, power or prestige, according to research by the Radcliffe Public Policy Center. Eighty-two percent of men ages 20 to 39 put family time at the top of their list, keeping pace with 85 percent of women in those age groups. Breaking ranks with their fathers and grandfathers on the issue of work-family integration, 71 percent of these men said they would give up some of their pay for more time with their families.

Despite equity improvements between the sexes, balancing family and career is still largely perceived as a woman's issue. Women are becoming more ambitious in their careers, yet opportunities haven't kept pace with increasing aspirations. By contrast, men have more access to executive positions yet desire to have more work flexibility for family without compromising their status. Think about and talk openly and regularly with your significant other and family about what the proper balance might be for you and your career.