Online Book Club Chapter Twelve: The Myth of Having It All

December 16, 2009 | Annemarie

Chapter Twelve delves into the topic of women, work and family. Carrie Lukas asserts that we can’t have it all, to get something we’ve got to give something:

“Young women have been taught from the time they were born that all doors are open to them: They can be astronauts, political leaders, athletes, or financial tycoons. The fact that women have so many choices in life is worth celebrating.  But having choices requires making choices. Reaching the heights of professional or political success requires a great deal of dedication and sacrifice. Women and men both face tradeoffs and must decide how they’re going to spend their time.”

Lukas goes on to point out that men often have different priorities than women:

“Women who bear children and traditionally serve as primary caregivers to their offspring, often feel they face different choices and tradeoffs than men . . . Whatever the reasons are, women and men are often going to make different choices about how to prioritize their time.”

Feminists try to deny that women will have to decide between a high powered career and spending time with family. Betty Holcomb author of Not Guilty! The Good New For Working Mothers, was upset that a Harvard sophomore wrote about her difficult choice between motherhood and a career:

“Feminists are often irritated when women choose family over career. . .”

Betty Holcomb describes with some alarm an essay written by a Harvard sophomore who felt as though she faced a crossroads — one path marked career and the other marked home life — and felt pulled toward home. The “Wage Gap” is a prominent feminist concern, according to the Department of Labor the average working woman makes three-quarters of that of a working man. According to Carrie Lukas, this is a false statistic: 

“The Department of Labor statistic used as the basis for this hoopla ignores the many relevant factors that affect a worker’s take-home pay. For starters, it doesn’t adjust for number of years worked. On average, women spend about a decade out of the workforce caring for their families. It should come as no surprise that a thirty-five-year-old woman reentering the workforce after ten years off earns less than a man or woman who worked continuously during that time.  The wage-gap statistic also fails to consider educational attainment. Today, women earn more than half of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but it wasn’t always that way. Older women in the workforce tend to have less education than their male peers, which affected their career path, their salaries, and ultimately Department of Labor data.”

Lukas closes the chapter with a charge to our government, one that encourages them to protect women’s choices and not dictate their wages or lifestyles:

“Instead of pursuing public policies that facilitate women’s increased entrance into the workforce–such as providing subsidized childcare and regulating businesses — policymakers should consider how to create as environment that allows women to make choices that reflect their preferences. For many women that may mean working less and spending more time with their children.”

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