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How Today's Professional Women Are Finding Solutions

by Deborah J. Swiss & Judith P. Walker

Pub Date: May 14th, 1993
ISBN: 0-471-53318-1
Publisher: Wiley

 Surveying 902 female graduates of Harvard's business, law, and medical schools over a ten-year period, Swiss (an independent consultant) and Walker (a consultant for child care at Harvard) conclude that few have it all--that even wealthy, educated, married women pay professional penalties for having families. Women achieve professional success in spite of having families, the authors say: The ``glass ceiling'' that keeps women from rising is firmly supported by a ``maternal wall.'' Those who do succeed--the ``fast-trackers''--establish their careers before they have children; negotiate for flexible working hours; build solid support-systems that include, ideally, live-in help, an involved mate, and adaptable kids; and overcome guilt, inefficiency, and the ``seductive baby'' syndrome, the lure of mothering. Alternatives include half-day jobs, alternate-day jobs, and job-sharing--but women in these jobs often are overqualified, underpaid, consigned to the ``B'' team, and required to conceal from patients or clients that they are working part-time. Risky and professionally isolated, but offering the most autonomy and flexibility, is self-employment, especially as an entrepreneur. Some women, the authors say, put ``ambition on hold'' and become full-time mothers. For those who pursue careers, handling their families requires the same skills as handling their professions: ``the right partnership,'' planning, and negotiation. Swiss and Walker offer advice for husbands (be better parents), employers (institute on-site day-care centers and allow work at home), and working women (demand change, express anger and frustration). Full of useful advice for the favored few who have the means to follow it, though many women--the poor, the poorly educated, the unmarried, and others who have to ``sweat the small stuff'' that these successful women apparently avoid--will find little of relevance here.