Posted by: egotschalk | February 21, 2013

Opting Out

In the two articles we had to read for Thursday’s class, both authors discussed different reasons why women are either choosing to leave or being forced out of upper-level positions in almost every sector. While I would agree that both are true to some extent, I would like to talk about another option that combines the two.

As a society, or maybe just our generation, we have become more values based in our decision-making, especially in terms of major life decisions like careers, families, and our overall goals in life. This values-based approach to decision-making could explain why women, or just our generation in general, are not seen in larger proportions in government, business, and other major sectors. I once mentioned in class that even if we have aspirations to change a misguided and faulty system, we often have to play into the system just to get hired or promoted. Thus, we are forced to conform to a system that we want to change in order to get into a position where we can promote the needed change. Now what does this have to do with opting out? Well, a number of my peers that I have spoken with talk about how they would love to go out and change the world, but do not want to have to join one of the larger organizations like the government to do it. It is daunting to imagine going into an organization like our federal government with many wonderful ideas for change, and finding that we cannot make any of those changes because politics or workplace alliances or workplace tensions prevent us from doing so. At the same time, trying to promote those changes on our own can be even more difficult because we do not have the legitimacy of a large organization to back our efforts.

So what does this have to do with women in leadership? Well we have talked about how people can have different values based on gender, race, or other demographic factors (or just prioritize those values differently). Maybe the reason that we are not seeing women in those upper level positions (or in some fields like technology or the sciences) is that the values expected to be upheld for those positions do not align with the values held by most women. For example, the articles cited that many organizations do not seem to value the family in the sense that family sometimes requires more work flexibility. Thus, some women may not want to move into upper level positions where there will be less flexibility. I do not think that this is opting out in the sense that women are opting out from the challenge of having to balance a rigid work schedule with a family. Rather, I think that some organizations are opting out of tackling these issues because it is risky to strike out on this new path, and they end up losing a lot of talent in the process.


  1. I thought that Thursday’s articles made an interesting point when they stated that women’s changing values for what they’re looking for in a job are starting to catch onto men a little bit, and how that had serious implications for the workforce. I don’t believe that a 180-degree turn around will be visible anytime soon but this could have an interesting impact on the workforce if people start taking jobs that do accommodate for a changing definition of gender roles within the family versus ones that do not. If that happens, corporations will be more or less forced into changing their culture to allow for women to pursue a dual role both on the job and in the home.

  2. Very well written. I have to disagree with one of your last statements, “I do not think that this is opting out in the sense that women are opting out from the challenge of having to balance a rigid work schedule with a family”. Although it is not the only reason, I feel studies would show that an inability to balance the family and work life is the major reason women would opt out if higher levels of management became available to them. The job of being a mother cannot be understated or undervalued. Just from observing my Mom, who only had to deal with me, it is hard work. Because of the societal norm that the husband should be the bread-winner of the family, usually a women, when they have a kid, stabilize their decision on what to do about what makes sense. Most people are not multi-balanced. Most people have a hard time focusing on two things and being successful or being happy. Above all, being happy. So that women, I think, would more than likely pick being a mother and give up their position, letting her man take the reigns of their financial upbringing. There are less opportunities for women than men, but not so much that they outweigh the main reason women opt out, to focus on family.

  3. I liked your point about organizations opting out of the risk rather than women opting out of the workplace. I never really considered that, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Organizations aren’t getting any more flexible about women who are trying to work and take care of their families, so it makes sense that they would be “opting out.” Maybe one reason that organizations aren’t taking the risk in work time flexibility is that they don’t want to be seen as favoring women over men by allowing them to have more flexible schedules. I don’t think this is a plausible argument on the organization’s part, but I can see how they would think this. I can also see how this could be a step in the wrong direction. If organizations did allow more flexibility, the so-called “favoritism” could cause even more tension in the workplace, which could in turn cause even more women to choose to stay at home rather than continue working. I definitely would like to see more flexibility for working mothers, but I think it is going to take a lot more thought than initially expected.

  4. Simply said, the American dream conflicts with American values. Between the readings and the course, American’s see success in money and power. The American dream is being able to be anyone and have the ability to achieve great things. But this doesn’t seem to reign true in women. The values of American culture still greatly lie in family. Having family values is not NEGATIVE, but is contradictory when trying to advance in the workplace. Woman are primarily the target, seeing they are the ones bearing the children. Both articles bring up the sacrifices many women make in their professional lives to preserve and fulfill their family values. And the harder question is how to combine the two. Just like you brought up, maybe we as should society put more pressure on organizations to combine them for us. If organizations took on this job maybe it would present a more accepting society as a whole and help women to balance their desire for the American dream while preserving their American values.

  5. I like what you have to say here. Women and men can feel daunted when it comes to plans for change, but I really feel that women have a more difficult time even proposing those plans. The fact that you brought up values regarding women in leadership is reassuring for me. I think in class, we get so caught up in discussing how women can be better leaders, or how women are defamed by society. However, we generally ignore the values that make up the society of women. A couple of authors have stated that women these days feel like they have to be and do everything; in some ways, even the women who are not really excited about a family, expect to have a family, even a small one. Women have values, and family seems to be a prevailing value in women’s culture.

  6. I have to agree that the article also did not sit to well with me. She made it seem like some women were still “stuck” in the mindset of reverting back to plain old family lifestyle rather than being a strong and active part of this “feminist movement”. I thought it was a bit of a low blow that just because someone has the financial means to be able to leave their job and pursue other interests such as a child or a family does not make her undedicated to the cause of equality between the sexes. Women are still allowed to choose to be mothers, at times it feels as though society has forgotten that. As I am approaching graduation it seems I get asked daily where I see myself in 10 to 20 years. Most of the time that vision for me does incorporate children and a family so when I relate that back I find it strange that at times people seemed almost shocked that someone at this day and age still sees rearing children as a goal for the future. This is where we need to consider if maybe the movement has gone to far on the extremist side in how it is being portrayed.

  7. This is a good addition to some of the things we ended up with last class; well written and all in one place. Organizations to often do not show the right kind of sympathy and flexibility, and it’s sad to know that some simple flexibility in schedule could make the workplace a lot more accommodating for women who choose to balance a work and family life. It may even open up some possibilities to some women who have never even considered trying to balance because they feel it would be too difficult, and bring in more women representation. This way, the women who choose a career over domestic life still can, and women who still want to be the primary caregiver for their children have more options to balance a separate job as well.

  8. Many companies and organizations have seemingly grown more intolerant to women in the workforce. In many cases today, women are pushed to worry about their work rather than focusing on their families. Women feel trapped between these two different environments when they don’t understand that they can have both. They can be the involved parent and be the financial provider for their families.

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