Decision for Women to Leave the Workforce Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

decision for women to leave the workforce and care for their children, it is more of a difficult choice then ever before. Modern conservatives consistently present the idea that women are naturally and inherently child-rearing and therefor should desire to end their career and stay at home with their children. Modern feminists, however, argue that no woman should be obligated to care for her child and instead should instantly step back into the workforce after having a child. Within the feminist camp there are two divided camps of thought as to why so many women refuse to remain in their careers. The first camp is that which argues that feminism failed to challenge the roles of the family and that women feel pulled to remain at home due to the traditional family stereotype. The second camp argues that women leave the workforce because the workforce had, in a sense, already left them behind by refusing to accommodate their new motherly lifestyle. This essay will evaluate both feminist arguments and determine the strengths and weaknesses of each.

One common flaw of the feminist movement is the notion that women (and men) are constrained by social forces that cause them to haphazardly enter into specified gender roles and thus be denied their ultimate dream of success. This victim mentality was what allowed the feminist movement their greatest push to break open the universities and workplaces and "eliminate" the glass ceiling so often associated with women in the workforce. In fact, modernly there are more women than men attending university and seeking degrees as the result of the feminist movement. Now that feminist's have eliminated this social pressure, they are moving into the camp of the family structure. According to feminist's women are now refusing to remain in their current careers and achieve success because they feel too much pressure to become a faithful wife and mother. The flaw that the feminist's miss in this argument is the choices leading up to these decisions. When a man desires to succeed in life, he either does not marry or chooses a spouse who wants to support a husband and children from home. Yet those in the feminist movement somehow have required that women have their cake and eat it too. Instead of career-centered women making the same responsible decision and seeking home-bound husbands to support them and their children, they ignore this factor and marry regardless. They then act surprised when the issue emerges and they must chose between their child being raised at home or in daycare. So, it is not necessarily a social force that is keeping women at home, rather, a lack of proper planning on the part of women made possible by the false calculations and messages presented by the feminist movement (Belkin, 2003).

The first arguments are by Hirshman who in her article vents her frustration with the modern workforce and the decisions that women are making. According to Hirshman, women should be "sticking it out" in the workplace in order to advance the cause of feminism and ensure equal amounts within the workforce. Hirshman argues that the reason that women switch roles is because of the social pressures to become a wife and mother. According to Hirshman, any woman who denies the "second shift" and refuses to stay home is "fixing for a fight." Hirshman argues that because of this continued compliance to the stereotypical roles, the workforce is giving women what they want, a mommy track that allows them to work, even part-time, and still be a mother. The problem, Hirshman argues, is that this mommy track is still harming those women who do not have children and do not desire this track. According to her statistics, less than 30% of women with college degrees are in higher executive positions after twenty years in the workforce.

While a compelling argument, Hirshman fails to see the flaw in her reasoning, or more specifically, see the argument from the other side. According to Hirshman it is harmful that women devote more time to family because it forces the implications of society onto future generations of women. However, when the national statistics are evaluated regarding the stability of homes where the woman remained at home are presented, there is a different side revealed. As a result of the feminist movement and their ideals for marriage and gender roles, there has now been an entire generation of "latch key" children who leave school each day and proceed to an empty home while mom and dad work to pursue their careers. Old enough to care for themselves, there is no need for these children to have childcare, so they are simply home alone. According to studies, however, these children are at a higher risk for peer pressure susceptibility, drug use, and have a higher dropout rate (Steinberg, 1986). So, while in the mind of a feminist, it may be more harmful for a woman to invest in her children (without any actual data to prove this argument), the true data shows that it is much more harmful to the next generation of adults when a woman chooses her career over her children.

The other presenter in this article is Stone, who argues that women are leaving their jobs to become mothers because they simply have no other choice. Stone argues this regardless of the fact that the mothers she interviews clearly stated that they had a choice and chose to remain at home. At the crux of Stone's argument she states that what is truly happening is that workplaces are unable to accommodate mothers. It is a dangerous argument when a researcher chooses to ignore the specific answers of those she surveyed. It is this very issue that has caused many modern scholars to question the credibility of qualitative studies, which are a type of study that the feminist movement thrives upon. Instead of utilizing the data from a study exactly as it is presented, qualitative researchers use their "degrees" and claim "special knowledge" and authority to read between the lines of what their subjects say and color the comments with their own personal beliefs. In any other line of study, this would be considered invalidating to the research (Guba, 1994). Thus, the weakness with Stone's argument is the fact that she is utilizing her own personal, isolated experiences to read into other people's answers thus coloring her research.

Both authors argue that there is still some impediment causing women to fail in the workplace. Hirshman argues that it is up to the women to simply leave their children behind and march back to the workplace, Stone argues that it is the responsibility of workplaces to accommodate women and allow them more flexible schedules. It can also be argued, however, that the real change that must take place is neither. The real change that needs to take place is the though processes of women and their decisions prior to getting married. If a woman knows she eventually wants to have a husband and children, then she should be permitted by the feminist's to see this as a healthy and very necessary option in society and a full-time career in and of itself. If a woman knows she wants to become rich and famous, she should be encouraged by those same feminists to avoid marrying without the clear expectations that her husband be the nurturer of the family. This is the same response and decision that men make, so it only makes sense that women should be expected to make the same decision. Finally, for those women who want it both ways, they need to understand the creativity and dexterity necessary to balance both roles (Zimmerman, 2004). Overall, however, there is nothing holding women back from pursing their goals any longer.…

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