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Women In The Workforce:
Families and Work Institute Weighs In
    (March 30, 2009) For the first time, young women want just as much to advance to jobs with more responsibility as young men. Moreover, being a mother does not significantly change young women's career ambitions.

    The gradual increase of women in the labor force over the past half century, combined with various work life trends and economic pressures, has resulted in a shrinking gap between how men and women view their careers, family roles, and the fit between their lives on and off the job.(1) From the desire to take on greater responsibility at work, to how men and women share responsibilities at home, the differences between the genders are in many cases narrowing according to a newly released report entitled "Times Are Changing: Gender and Generation at Work and At Home," which examines the evolution of work-related gender roles over the past three decades.

    The report was produced by the Families and Work Institute ( and funded by IBM. It is the first report issued based on data from FWI's 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce (NSCW), the only study of its kind to provide 30+ year comparisons (from 1977 to 2008), of life on and off the job.(2) The report is also supplemented by other public data to provide as broad and current a picture as possible.

    "Our findings are striking and surprising," said Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of Families and Work Institute and lead author of the study. "There are many firsts in this study -- the first time that younger men and women feel the same about job advancement and the first time that there is no statistically significant difference between men and women in their views of appropriate gender roles."

    "The results of this study highlight the need to understand what motivates different generations and ensure your programs meet their needs," according to Ron Glover, Vice President, Diversity & Workforce Programs, IBM. "IBM has conducted Work/Life Surveys since 1986 and we have seen a steady increase in work/life challenges for men. Work/Life difficulty is no longer a women's issue -- it's a people issue."

    (1) Please visit for notes from the study.

    (2) Please visit for notes from the study.

    Some of the very notable trends identified in the report include:
  • Women in dual-earner couples are contributing more to family income. In 1997 women contributed an average of 39% of annual family income. That figure rose to 44% in 2008. In 2008, 26% of women living in dual-earner couples had annual earnings at least 10 percentage points higher than that of spouses/partners, up from 15% in 1997.

  • Among Millennials (under 29 years old), women are just as likely as men to want jobs with greater responsibility. In 1992, 80% of men and 72% of women under the age of 29 wanted jobs with greater responsibility. Today the figure is 67% of men and 66% of women.

  • Today, there is no difference between young women with and without children in their desire to move to jobs with more responsibility. Whereas 60% of women under 29 with children and 78% of women without children wanted jobs with more responsibility in 1992, today the percentages are 69% (with children) and 66% (without children).

  • Men and women are both less likely to embrace traditional gender roles. Only 41% of employees in 2008 believe it is better "if the man earns the money and the woman takes care of the home and children," down from 64% in 1977. The drop is even more pronounced among men (74% to 42% versus 52% to 39% of women). Now there is no statistical difference between men and women in their views.

  • Employed fathers, especially Millennials, are spending more time with children today than their age counterparts did three decades ago, where as employed mothers' time has not changed. On average employed fathers of all ages spend 3.0 hours per workday with children under 13 today compared with 2.0 hours in 1977. For employed mothers of all ages, time spent with children has remained at 3.8 hours. Today's Millennial fathers spend 4.3 hours per workday compared with the 2.4 hours spent by their age counterparts in 1977. Mothers under 29 today average 5.0 hours compared with 4.5 hours in 1977.

  • Men are taking more overall responsibility for the care of their children. In 1992, 21% of women said that their spouses or partners were taking as much or more responsibility for the care of their children as they were. By 2008, that percentage has risen to 31%.

  • Changing gender roles appear to have increased the level of work life conflict experienced by men. Men's work-life conflict has increased significantly from 34% in 1977 to 45% in 2008, while women's work-life conflict has risen less dramatically and not significantly from 34% to 39%.

  • Data collection for the 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the new report on "Gender and Generation at Work and At Home" is downloadable free of charge at

    About Families and Work Institute
    Families and Work Institute (FWI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan premier research organization that studies the changing workforce and workplace, the changing family and the changing community. As a preeminent think-tank, FWI is known for being ahead of the curve, identifying emerging issues, and then conducting rigorous research that often challenges common wisdom, provides new insight and knowledge, and motivates and leads to action. Since the Institute was founded in 1989, its work has focused in three major areas: the workforce/workplace, youth and early childhood. For more information, visit

Colleen Gildea

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