More Revealing Data on Women Who 'Opt Out' Rather Than 'Lean in'
Joni Hersch, a professor of law and economics at Vanderbilt in a research paper entitled Opting Out among Women with Elite Education, concludes that women from the Ivies and other high-prestige univerisites like Duke and Stanford, do not opt out more often than women with less prestigious pedigrees if they are childless.
Once women of the upper classes have children, however, those from first tier universities are significantly more likely to be home with the kids than the others — 68% of mothers from the tier one schools were employed, compared to 76% of those from the other schools.
Unsurprisingly, professional women who have more control over their working schedules like physicians or Ph.Ds, as well as those in traditionally female professions such as teaching, are as likely to stay in the workforce regardless of their educational provenance.
Those with law degrees, however, are nine percent less likely to be employed than graduates from lower-tier schools; those with MBAs are 16 percent less likely to juggle both home and worklife, and those with just a BA, are 13 percent less likely to stay in the workforce.
Let's Make Educated Guesses About the Reasons for These Statistics
Instead of focusing on class differences, let's focus on the jobs that do not erect substantially higher barriers to continued employment for women than they do for men.
Women from prestitious universities with J.D.s and MBA's tend to work in the nation's top corporations and most profitable law and consulting firms. In these industries, the leadership gaps have been stuck below 20% for the past ten years.
The hallmark of these industries is the necessity of clocking in hours most men - single or married - don't much relish, let alone women whose nuclear and extended family responsibilities continue to fall most heavily upon them. These are tough jobs for men and single women. They are often simply impossible for women with children, married or unmarried.
Value pricing expert Ron Baker at the VeraSage Institute in a recent interview for an article to appear in the next Florida Association of Women Lawyers Journal, told me that valuing legal and other knowledge worker services by the number of hours it takes them to do their jobs is like using a ruler to determine the temperature of an oven.
In other words, those "hours billed" or generated that the legal and consulting professions use to evaluate their employees or partner/shareholders for retention, promotion, profit sharing and bonuses, are not useful metrics.
That hours are the metrics in these professions neatly explains why physicians and educators don't "opt out" when they have children. They don't need lectures on "leaning in" because they don't need to work harder or longer than necessary to be on a career path that is as likely to reward their efforts as it is to reward those of their male colleagues.
There have been more than enough books, articles, treatises, blog posts, facebook rants and tweets about what we women can do to overcome the institutional barriers that make the best educated among us also the most likely to deprive the world of our wisdom, knowledge and experience.
Let's move at least some of the focus to the historic institutional structures that discourage the best of our women from staying in the workforce and that also, by the by, fail to deliver the best services most efficiently.