In response to a front-page New York Times article from one year ago, which alleged that women students at elite schools will choose a family and motherhood over a career, Victoria Brescoll, a postdoctoral research fellow at Yale, conducted a study to determine true attitudes of women and men students regarding their future careers and family lives. Her findings show that both women and men value career and family to the same extent, but that women expect to encounter greater hardship in balancing a career and a family.
Dr. Brescoll reported that, of 469 Yale students, 81.4 percent planned on becoming a parent. Brescoll found that more men planned on becoming a parent than women: 87.6 percent of men and 78.4 percent of women indicated that parenthood is a life goal. Both men and women planned on having about the same number of children (women’s average response was 2.41 and men’s average response was 2.47) at about the same age (women’s average age was 29.35 and men’s average age was 30.05).
Brescoll did find that more women planned on taking time off after having children, but not to the extent that the New York Times article from 2005 purported. The original story, written by Louise Story, claimed that 30 percent of well-educated women would stop working altogether after having a child, Inside Higher Ed reports. Brescoll found that only 4.1 percent of Yale women surveyed would stop working outside the home.
Brescoll also found that women expect more personal barriers to full-time work and parenthood: on a scale of one to seven, where one is “strongly disagree” and seven is “strongly agree,” women had an average response of 4.44 and men had an average response of 3.37 to the statement, “If I have children someday, I think it will be difficult for me to work full-time.”