Could a Lack of Men Drive Women to Focus on Career?
Feeling "unattractive" can push women too, university researchers find
The idea that "having it all"—a husband, career, income, and kids—can mean ultimate happiness for a woman has been debated, denounced and defended by many but, according to a new study, it's a woman's impression of her own eligibility, as well as the availability of eligible men, that can influence her definition of what having it "all" means, too.
Upon examining the ratio of single men to single women in every U.S. state, Dr. Kristina Durante, assistant professor of marketing at University of Texas, found that the less abundant bachelors were—or even appeared to be (for the purposes of the study, researchers led female college students participating in the study to believe such simply by having them read one or two news articles on the student population)—the more women were likely to delay life as a wife and mother, and pursue high-paying jobs.
Additionally, Durante found that if women self-identified as "less desirable to men," they were more likely to embark on an ambitious career path.
"Most women don’t realize it, but an important factor in a woman’s career choice is how easy or difficult it is to find a husband,” said Durante. “When a woman’s dating prospects look bleak, as is the case when there are few available men, she is much more likely to delay starting a family and instead seek a career.”
For women's career commitment to be dependent on how worthy and attractive they feel (or, are to men) may sound disheartening, but Dr. Fran Walfish doesn't doubt that it's true.
"Libido, or sexual urge, drives the human-being," said Walfish. "It is the gasoline that drives us. If there is no hope felt on the part of the woman in pursuit of acquiring a man, then she must direct those urges toward something that will pay off. For many, it is their work and careers."
Megan Charles of the Inquistr, however, is much more reluctant to accept Durante's findings as fact.
"Women are typecast as the damsel[s] who only want to work just long enough to find someone else to take care of us," wrote Charles. "It’s offensive to assume we, as women, are just biding our time, playing college student and hard-working career chick, while waiting for Prince Charming to swoop in and end our needless pursuit of an education and income."
Charles would likely find comfort in knowing that last October, a poll conducted by Citi and LinkedIn revealed that more than a third of women (36 percent) didn’t factor marriage into their definition of “having it all” and nearly a third – 27 percent – didn’t include children in that definition at all. Still, being "in a loving relationship" was one of the top two factors, alongside "having enough money to do and buy what they want."
Additionally, data released by Gallup last September showed women have become increasingly interested in working outside the home; 51 percent of the more than 1,000 respondents preferred that option (“if they were free to do either”) over “staying at home and taking care of the house and family.”
Still, Walfish maintains that women who feel they exhibit less-than-average looks (and subsequently feel less-than-worthy of love), succumb to stronger career aspirations by default.
"Often, this harder pursuit toward work is unconscious, or without thought," said Walfish. "It's automatic. Most people will go towards the thing that rewards. If the reward cannot be found in a man, the woman will turn her energies toward something that feeds, nourishes, and more immediately rewards -- her work."
What do you think? Are driven, career women using work as a substitute for love? Tell us in the Comments.