Media Misleads: Women Don’t “Opt Out,” They’re Pushed Out

When women leave careers to raise children, they are not “opting out” – as the news media often suggests – but are pushed out by the “maternity wall,” the mothers’ version of the glass ceiling, the Center for Worklife Law argues in a new report. The report, “Opt Out or Pushed Out: How the Press Covers Work/Family Conflict” (pdf), analyzed 119 articles from 1980 to 2006 about women leaving work to become mothers. Seventy-three percent of the articles indicated that women left paid jobs because of a psychological or biological “pull” towards motherhood, rather than being pushed out by workplace inflexibility or gender discrimination.

These statistics, however, clash with a 2004 study cited in the report, which found that, while five out of 43 professional women stayed home after becoming mothers, only 16 percent intended to quit their jobs, and 86 percent blamed work reasons, such as workplace inflexibility, for their leaving, according to the report. “Perhaps the most damaging parts of the Opt Out story line is that it excuses gender discrimination under the rubric of ‘choice,'” the center notes in the report.

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Center for WorkLife Law Report 10/06; Feministing 10/27/06

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