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Employment Law Blog

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Decisions, decisions

There’s an interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times about female students at Ivy League schools and the, now familiar, “work/life balance” question.  It seems that “many women at the nation’s most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children.”  It’s hard to say whether that’s true, as the he story is almost entirely anecdotal about attitudes of current students.  The evidence does, however, appear to confirm that nearly half of the women at Yale will leave the workforce by the time they are in their 40?s:

According to a 2000 survey of Yale alumni from the classes of 1979, 1984, 1989 and 1994, conducted by the Yale Office of Institutional Research, more men from each of those classes than women said that work was their primary activity - a gap that was small among alumni in their 20’s but widened as women moved into their prime child-rearing years. Among the alumni surveyed who had reached their 40’s, only 56 percent of the women still worked, compared with 90 percent of the men.

A 2005 study of comparable Yale alumni classes found that the pattern had not changed. Among the alumni who had reached their early 40’s, just over half said work was their primary activity, compared with 90 percent of the men. Among the women who had reached their late 40’s, some said they had returned to work, but the percentage of women working was still far behind the percentage of men.

A 2001 survey of Harvard Business School graduates found that 31 percent of the women from the classes of 1981, 1985 and 1991 who answered the survey worked only part time or on contract, and another 31 percent did not work at all, levels strikingly similar to the percentages of the Yale students interviewed who predicted they would stay at home or work part time in their 30’s and 40’s.

I don?t think that anyone should question a person?s decision to place more value on child rearing than working, but shouldn?t employers be free to come to the alternate conclusion?  If it?s true that 60% of Yale?s female graduates plan on dropping out of the workforce ? a historically accurate percentage ? does it make sense to hire one?

What do you think?  Post your comments!

Posted by Patrick Della Valle on 09/21 at 11:02 AM