A Gender Reversal on Career Aspirations

Apr 19, 2012

In a reversal of traditional gender roles, young women now surpass young men in the importance they place on having a high-paying career or profession, according to survey findings from the Pew Research Center. Two-thirds (66%) of young women ages 18 to 34 rate career high on their list of life priorities, compared with 59% of young men.1 In 1997, 56% of young women and 58% of young men felt the same way.

The past 15 years have also seen an increase in the share of middle-aged and older women who say being successful in a high-paying career or profession is “one of the most important things” or “very important” in their lives. Today about the same share of women (42%) and men (43%) ages 35 to 64 say this. In 1997, more middle-aged and older men than women felt this way (41% vs. 26%).

The survey question about career success is part of a battery that asks respondents to weigh the importance of key aspects of life. For men and women of all ages, being a good parent and having a successful marriage continue to rank significantly higher on their list of priorities than being successful in a high-paying job or career. Thus, the increased importance women are now placing on their careers has not come at the expense of the importance they place on marriage and family.

Read the full report, A Gender Reversal on Career Aspirations, on the Pew Social & Demographic Trends website.

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