Career Decision Making

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Throughout your adult life, you will make decisions regarding your career. As college students, you have already started on a career path by choosing your college, major, extracurricular activities, etc. Several of you have posted that you are considering entrepreneurship. In most cases, you will begin by working for a company to start, and then make choices from there.
Regardless of the career path you choose and the home life you choose, you will probably find the need to create a balance between the two. What exactly does that mean and how does one accomplish it? Is creating a balance between career and family harder for one gender than it is for the other? How do you think entrepreneurship might factor into creating and maintaining a work-life balance? Do you think it might be more or less difficult than other options or just different? To the men in the class, do you feel that you have the same issues as the women or do you feel they differ?

Traditional gender roles have typically played a part in determining who in the family participates in what activities. Biologically, it is women who bear children, and oftentimes, participates in the bulk of the child-rearing. However, keep in mind that an 1800s farm wife worked 60-90 hours a week in the home doing laundry, cooking, sewing, etc., so they had “jobs,” just not outside the home.

The “typical” American family today is very different. Many women today pursue careers and raise families at the same time., or choose not to raise families. This is a very different picture than half a century ago, as portrayed in shows like “Leave it to Beaver.” Consider NBC’s show that ended last season, “Parenthood.” Four families are portrayed in the show, including a single mom, a family with a stay-at-home dad, a family with a stay-at-home mom who goes back to work, and a family with two working parents. What does this tell us about our current society’s view on working families? Do you think these are accurate depictions of real families?

The number of stay-at-home dads in the United States has tripled in the last decade, although they still only account for 3.5% of stay-at-home parents. There are many reasons why these numbers are climbing, some of which are considered in this article. There are 5 million stay-at-home moms compared to 462,000 stay-at-home dads that are primary caregivers. Click here to hear (and read) a segment from NPR’s Morning Edition on this topic. Do you think that there are social stigmas against fathers who choose to stay at home with their children? Would you consider this option for your family in the future? Consider the stigmas and thoughts presented in this article.

There are many arguments today about the ability of women to “have it all.” In 2012, two prominent women made very different choices regarding their career and their family. As detailed in this article, Marissa Mayer, chief executive at Google, accepted the position of CEO of Yahoo! Corporation. She was five months pregnant at the time. For one blogger’s opinion about the topic, click here. She then went back to work after only a few weeks of maternity leave last fall. What do you think this shows about women’s career and home options today? Do you have any opinions about Marissa Mayer’s choices? (Interesting note: when I was writing this blog post, I looked for, and couldn’t find, a picture of Marissa Mayer while pregnant. Do you think that means anything?) In February of this year, Mayer made a decision regarding Yahoo! that attracted a lot of attention. She stopped the “work from home” option that Yahoo! had offered to many of its employees. Many mothers who worked for Yahoo! felt negatively about this choice. Read this article about the decision and how it affected people and how Marissa Mayer was perceived because of this choice. How do you feel about it? Do you think that fact that Mayer is herself a working mother should be taken into consideration when deciding how you feel about this choice? (I ask this because her status as a mother and her ways of caring for her child while performing her CEO duties were greatly criticized.) If a male CEO had made the same decision, would the public perception have been the same?

Another woman, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, choose to leave her foreign policy job and return to her family and professorship in Princeton, NJ. She felt that here sons were having issues that could be partly alleviated if she were not living full-time in Washington, D.C., and therefore made the decision to come home. Read her story, in her own words, here. How does this story contrast with Marissa Mayer’s story? What do you think this story shows about the choices and options women today have? Do you have any opinions about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s choices? What do these two examples show about the quest for finding “balance”?

Starting an entrepreneurial venture is an avenue that more and more women are pursuing for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is the ability to create a schedule that accommodates work and family. However, beginning a business can be an extremely time-consuming venture. Bobbi Brown, founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, wrote about her experiences of balancing a start-up venture in Inc. Magazine. What do you think the challenges would be of running a business and balancing the rest of your life? What do you think the rewards might be? How do you think being an entrepreneur might be helpful in maintaining a balance between work and home life? How do you think it might be detrimental?

Consider these questions and resources as you post your comments this week. How do you hope to achieve career balance? How are you achieving it now? How do you think gender factors into career balance decisions?

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