[I saw this posted by Kathy Geier on a mailing list, in response to a New York Times article entitled “Forget the Career. My Parents Need Me at Home.” As Echidne points out, this seems to be the latest in an ongoing series of Times articles warning women away from high-powered careers. Kathy kindly gave me permission to reprint her post on “Alas.” –Amp]
But as I said in my original post about this article, and I’ve said about the others in this genre, the idea that there is some sort of “trend” whereby significant numbers of professional class women (and it’s always only the professional class women we are talking about, in NewYorkTimesLand, anyway) are suddenly deciding to dump their careers because they find true happiness only in caring for families, is a crock. I know of no evidence, no research, no numbers that support this idea. And none of these articles have ever pointed to any good evidence that it is a trend.
The survey that the bogus Yale article was based on contained leading questions and was based on a response rate of well under 30%. My survey research prof says that any time you have a response rate of 50% or under, the results are highly questionable because there’s a strong likelihood of selection bias.
Aside from my political objections, this kind of thing is just amazingly shoddy journalism. Anecdotes do not equal a trend, and I would have hoped that New York Times reporters and editors, of all people, would understand that.
Yes, many women experience intense work/family conflict, and some of them drop out of the workforce because of it. But I have yet to see any evidence that more women are doing this than in the past. And I’ve seen tons of evidence that more women than ever before are becoming highly educated and entering the professions.
What I hate about these stories, besides the bullshit “trend” aspect, is that they are always framed as being purely about women’s personal “choices.” The context is completely depoliticized. In terms of elderly parents, for example, no one asks why the sons and brothers are not doing more. Or why our society doesn’t provide more publically funded care for the elderly, or why we don’t have more family-friendly work policies.
This kind of coverage provides plenty of grist for employers who want an excuse to discrminate against women. It also creates a climate in which ambitious young women may feel fearful and discouraged about pursuing a professional career. I’ll end with this quote from Echidne of the Snakes: