Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Perils of the executive woman

Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and lecturer. Back in 2001 she wrote a piece for the Harvard Business School on the failure of career women to marry and have children. The statistics she provides in the article are eye-opening.

According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett's research 50% of the top earning women never had children, despite nearly 90% wanting to. (The actual statistic: 49% of women aged 41 to 55 earning $100,000 per year in 2001 were childless.)

Even women earning more modest incomes had difficulty forming families. Of women aged 41 to 55 in the $55,000 to $66,000 income bracket 57% were unmarried and 33% were childless.

This disruption to family formation also afflicted the previous generation of businesswomen. Research by Felice Schwartz undertaken in the late 1980s found that 65% of executive women aged 40 were childless.

Why the failure to form families? It's not because these women didn't want to marry or have children (between 86% and 89% of high earning women wanted children).

One problem identified by Sylvia Ann Hewlett is that some women weren't proactive enough in trying to form families when they were younger and time was on their side. She quotes a younger woman, Amy, who was still holding to this "delay" mindset:
Amy is just embarking on her career. Her story is probably typical. “I figure I’ve got 14, 15 years before I need worry about making babies,” she e-mailed me. “In my mid-30s, I’ll go back to school, earn an MBA, and get myself a serious career. At 40, I’ll be ready for marriage and family. I can’t tell you how glad I am that this new reproductive technology virtually guarantees that you can have a baby until 45. Or maybe it’s even later. Go doctors!”

Modern medicine notwithstanding, the chances of Amy’s getting pregnant in her 40s are tiny – in the range of 3% to 5%. The luxury of time she feels is, unfortunately, an illusion.

Ready for marriage and family at 40! The problem is not just that she overestimates the reproductive technology. It's that she is so ready to deprioritise marital and maternal love in favour of life in a cubicle. There is a lovelessness too in her readiness to deliberately deny her future husband her youthful beauty, passion and fertility.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett believes that Amy is being unwise. Amongst the recommendations at the end of her piece are these:
Give urgent priority to finding a partner. My survey data suggest that high-achieving women have an easier time finding partners in their 20s and early 30s.

Have your first child before 35. The occasional miracle notwithstanding, late-in-life child-bearing is fraught with risk and failure. Even if you manage to get one child “under the wire,” you may fail to have a second. This, too, can trigger enormous regret.

Finally, Sylvia Ann Hewlett also recognises the problem of hypergamy, namely that executive men are willing to marry women younger and poorer than themselves and so have a relatively large pool of potential spouses to choose from, whilst executive women are usually oriented to men with a similar or higher educational and career standing:
Only 39% of high-achieving men are married to women who are employed full-time, and 40% of these spouses earn less than $35,000 a year. Meanwhile, nine out of ten married women in the high-achieving category have a husband who are employed full-time or self-employed and a quarter are married to men who earn more than $100,000 a year. Clearly, successful women have slim pickings in the marriage departments – particularly as they age. Professional men seeking to marry typically reach into a large pool of younger women, while professional women are limited to a shrinking pool of eligible peers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, at age 28 there are four college-educated, single men for every three college-educated single women. A decade later, the situation is radically changed. At age 38, there is one man for every three women.

Perhaps some things have changed in the culture of relationships since the piece was written, but at the very least it stands as a testament to the disruption to family that has taken place in past decades.


  1. Why the failure to form families? It's not because these women didn't want to marry or have children (between 86% and 89% of high earning women wanted children).

    Of course it is.

    If you don't take any of the obvious steps towards achieving something you say you want, then your claim to want it cannot be taken seriously.

    If you don't do anything to get it, you don't really want it.

  2. My wife and I married at 19, and 23, respectively. Both in college. I finished first, and she finished going part time, while raising our first child.

    By the age of 30, she had our 3 kids. By 33, she had a graduate degree, the kids were in school and she was able to do her internships, etc.

    By 40, the kids were in middle and high school, and she had 5 years in her field.

    Now, the kids are grown, have their degrees and she is very well respected in her field.

    We put kids first, and worked careers around them.

    At the end of the month, we'll celebrate 34 years of marriage. You can do it, but not in the order these ladies think....

  3. Also this impacts the overall intelligence of the society when the highly intelligent women do not pass on their genes to the next generation leading to overall decline in the countries capabilities.

  4. Part of the problem is that the baby boomers raised a generation of whiney selfish men. It is hard to find a decent man even at a young age. I always wanted to get married & have children before the age of 30 but it just didn't work out that way.

  5. @ Ed Kanata

    I'll be extra unpc here and say that high intelligence is passed on by men. It is only complimentary for women.

    I say it is harder to find a decent woman in this country that isn't a whiney selfish whore. I will most likely never find one in Australia. GOOD!

  6. Part of the problem is that the baby boomers raised a generation of whiney selfish men.

    No, they raised their sons to be quite traditional family guys. The problem was how they raised their daughters. The daughters were raised to put career and independence ahead of family. That meant that marriage and motherhood was pushed right back into a woman's 30s, which then meant that young men had no incentive to follow the usual commitments. For the university educated middle-classes it was a disaster.

    From what I've observed things are a bit better now, as a lot of women seem to be meeting their future husbands in their early 20s, marrying by their mid-20s and having children by their late 20s. It may not be ideal, but it does allow for timely family formation.

  7. Enjoy the decline 'executive' ladies.

  8. I say it is harder to find a decent woman in this country that isn't a whiney selfish whore.

    Anon, I know your comment was provoked, but if we respond this way it only further drives a wedge between men and women.

  9. Mark, I fell for the'have it all' mantra. I was 'first in family' to go to university, fell for the 'population bomb' myth, fell for 'humans are cancer' to our poor planet. Fell for 'global warming', 'we are all going to fry' and 'why have children?' mantra. I feel so cheated. I have two beautiful, very smart young, successful adult children. I wish I'd had six or more. Children are the best,most fulfilling, most satisfying thing I have ever accomplished. I say I, I should say we. My husband and I have raised two great people. I regret not contributing more. I feel lied to by the media, academia, popular culture. My career is insignificant in light of the children we could / should have have raised. Proud of my children but regret that we could have had lots more.

  10. Marie, thanks for your comment.

    I don't think you're alone in feeling the way you do.

  11. I was raised to be traditional. My parents didn't let me go to university. I had to begg them to let me finish highschool.i have an ordinary job & no career & I was raised with the expectation that I would be asked out by nice man at church ect. & that I would marry him young & have a family before I was 30. It didn't turn out that way. Men rejected me because I was not" hot "enough. Didn't have an education & that I am a virgin waiting for marriage.. My upbringing made me undesirable to the modern man & I am including church going men in this.

  12. I'm not the only one. There are lots of single Catholic women in their 30s that cannot find husbands because there is such a shortage of good Catholic men. When I go to an event there is 5 women to 1 man so the maths is not in the womans favour. I am sick of being told that the reason I a single is because I am a "selfish whore" when it is the opposite.

  13. I am sick of being told that the reason I a single is because I am a "selfish whore" when it is the opposite.
    How is a single man a selfish whore? Men are looking but no women are out there.
    It is all the fault of women. I'll say it in biblical terms. Women took the Apple of Feminism and liberalism.
    Any thing wrong in their lives is their fault.
    Men can and will move on.

  14. Also lets get real. To the anon @12:47:00 who is obviously a troll.
    No one is telling these things to women. No avenue, academia, media etc is telling women this.
    How can you be sick of it when no one is telling you this.
    All voices that try to rein in women's behaviour have been censored and are only found in the unPC sphere of the internet.
    The average women I suspect has no clue about what men think of them. Just me, me and me with an entire system telling them what they want to hear.
    So its crap feminist crap that you say "i'm sick of it". Men are the only ones getting brow beat and lectured today. They are damn sick of it.

  15. To Anon @ 12:47

    The reason there are so many single women in their 30s in churches is primarily (as you say) due to low numbers of men attending church. The men that are available in their 30s are often unattractive, divorced or 'creepy' (which is socially awkward and unattractive); hardly the pick of the bunch. The interesting question is 'Why are there so few men in church?'

    Well, one of the main reasons is that the official churches have become feminised since WWII. They have bought into the liberal postmodern crap that all religions are equal and that truth is a relative concept. Men, rightly, see this touchy-feely non-committal to truth as being weak. It's downright unmanly. Masculine approaches and strengths (forthrightness, debate, division of right and wrong, principled acceptance and rejection) were abandoned in favour of feelgood experiences and a search for consensus.

    The result is a lukewarm church that makes people feel comfortable but ends up hurting them.

    Interesting anecdote. Probably the best-looking young woman at my old church only married in her early 30s. Now she's decided that being a mother and wife are her priorities. 'Hotness' (or lack thereof) wasn't the problem.

    You're right about one thing: not enough young men are being trained to appreciate virtuous women.

  16. Female Anon,

    Thanks for providing more details about your circumstances.

    I think it's true that the culture has developed in a way that makes men go for "hotness".

    But that's not surprising given the circumstances that men have been raised in.

    If men are raised to think of relationships in terms of marriage, then they'll be oriented to women who will make good wives and mothers, with the qualities associated with these.

    If they are raised to think in terms of romantic love, they'll look for idealised feminine qualities.

    But an alliance of feminists and liberal men changed the culture. The feminists insisted on a sexual revolution in which women would be able to pursue sexual relationships not for romantic love or marriage but for sex alone.

    Once this idea caught hold, then it changed what men and women selected for. If you are looking for a sexual relationship, without considering romantic love or marriage, then it makes sense that you will look for "hotness".

    And once the culture in general changes this way it's difficult for those who stand outside the new norms to be successful in relationships.

    Finally, I agree with Jason that the churches haven't done much to attract masculine men. There has been little attempt to integrate the masculine spirit within the ethos of the churches.

  17. By the way, female Anon, I think it's possible your parents made the mistake of thinking that what worked for their own generation still applied for their children.

    That's not an uncommon mistake for parents to make.

  18. Thank you I agree with you and Jason. A lot of religious & good women are losing out simply because the culture & circumstances are against them- not because they are "whores" or been riding the "cock carousel".You cannot blame conservative church going women for the actions of feminists & secular women. I don't believe that men are entirely innocent either. Time & time again I have seen men ( including religious ones) choose the " bad girls" when there are perfectly nice, chaste women to choose from.When men from the MRM complain to me about there being no good women left I reply, " go to a latin mass and take your pick."

  19. Anonymous at 22:07:00 says: "go to a Latin mass and take your pick."

    I cannot speak for Latin masses outside Australia's two biggest cities, but believe you me, within those two cities Latin masses are notorious for the disproportionately high number of extremely effete "males", if not out-and-out practising sodomites, in the congregations. Maybe it's all the bells and smells and dressy vestments involved.

    One unfortunate consequence of this is the women who hang around them, in the clear desire to remain "fag hags". It's my belief that fag hags are even more pitiful specimens of humanity than are corporate "female" executives.

    In my experience the priests at these masses know about the problem of innumerable congregational pansies, but what can a priest do about it? Nothing. These days any Australian priest who criticises the behaviour or the attitude of any lay person whatsoever is setting himself up for a charge of sexual abuse. However fraudulent such a charge, it will be widely believed.

    So the priests grit their teeth; studiously refrain from levelling the slightest censure of sodomy from the pulpit; and hope for the best.

  20. Wow I didn't know they were TUNNELING UNDER YOUR HOUSE

  21. Well, Anonymous at 20:54:00, you know the famous definition of San Francisco - "the land of fruits and nuts" - that's just as good a description, far too frequently, of the Latin mass communities in Sydney and Melbourne. One day even the average Australian "conservative" might realise that demography is destiny, but I don't suppose this realisation will happen in my lifetime.