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Doi:10.1080/03069880600769118

British Journal of Guidance & Counselling,Vol. 34, No. 3, August 2006 CATHERINE HAKIMDepartment of Sociology, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London. WC2A2AE, UK; email: c.hakim@lse.ac.uk There are no sex differences in cognitive ability but enduring sex differences in competitiveness, life goals, the relative emphasis on agency versus connection. Policy-makers’ andfeminist emphasis on equal opportunities and family-friendly policies assumes that sex discriminationis the primary source of sex differentials in labour market outcomes *notably the pay gap betweenmen and women. However, some careers and occupations cannot be domesticated *examples aregiven *and this also poses limits to social engineering. Recent research shows that high levels of femaleemployment and family-friendly policies reduce gender equality in the workforce and produce the glassceiling. Preference theory is the only theory that can explain these new trends, the continuing pay gapand occupational segregation. Preference theory implies that there are at least three types of careerrather than one. However, the differences between men and women’s career goals are smaller thansometimes thought.
Society is man-made [1], and human beings are malleable, in the sense of respondingto incentives and sanctions, at least in the short run (Levitt & Dubner, 2005). It doesnot follow that social engineering [2] works on a completely blank slate (Pinker,2002). Many differences between men and women that were believed to be fixed,and probably innate (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974), have recently been shown to besocially constructed and artificial. Most notably, once women gained access to highereducation after the equal opportunities revolution, sex differences in cognitiveabilities evaporated. Today, females regularly outperform males in educationalqualifications obtained at secondary school level, especially during compulsoryschooling (EOC & OFSTED, 1996). Sex differences in verbal, mathematical andspatial abilities have now shrunk to small and insignificant levels (Hyde, 1996).
However, some sex differences remain unchanged *notably in attitudes to sexuality,and what is often labelled as ‘aggression’ but extends to and includes rivalry andcompetitiveness as well as physical violence (Dabbs, 2000; Hyde, 1996 p. 114;Archer, 2004). A widely admired book by Gilligan (1982) argues that there areimportant sex differences in moral judgements affecting behaviour, which aresometimes summarised as differing emphases on agency versus connection. Reviews ISSN 0306-9885/print/ISSN 1469-3534/online/06/030279-16 # 2006 Catherine Hakim of the latest research evidence and experimental studies also conclude that many sexdifferences in personality and behaviour are not eroding over time; that publicstereotypes of sex differences correspond closely to research findings and are hencebased in reality; and that there are persistent sex differences in individualism versuscollectivism (Babcock & Laschever, 2003; Eagly, 1995; Hakim, 2004a; Lorenzi-Cioldi, 1988; Pinker, 2002; Swim, 1994).
However, many feminist scholars insist that there are no ‘natural’ differences between men and women, and that sex discrimination (direct and structural) is theprimary reason for differences between men and women in labour market outcomes(see, for example, Bryson, 1992; Phillips, 2004). One consequence, unfortunately, isthat political correctness now impedes rigorous research on the extent of sexdifferences in abilities, social attitudes, values, life goals and behaviour, and renderssuch research polemical and contentious (Eagly, 1995; Ginn et al ., 1996; Hakim,1995, 2004a). Nonetheless, there is solid evidence that men and women continue todiffer, on average, in their work orientations and labour market behaviour, and thatthese differences are linked to broader differences in life goals, the relativeimportance of competitiveness versus consensus-seeking values, and the relativeimportance of family life and careers (Hakim, 2000, 2003a, 2004a). Thesedifferences persist long after the equal opportunities revolution of the 1960s and1970s gave women equal right to access higher education and all positions andcareers in the labour force. However, they are differences of degree, with largeoverlaps between men and women. They are not fundamental qualitative differences,as often argued in the past in order to entirely exclude women from ‘male’occupations such as management, the military and the professions.
The European Commission has adopted the feminist, ideological position rather than the evidence-based, scholarly perspective. It assumes that it is purely a socialaccident that certain careers, some of them well paid, are male-dominated and do nottolerate motherhood, long parental leaves, part-time hours of work, and family-friendly arrangements. It has adopted as major policy goals the elimination ofgender-based occupational segregation and the stubbornly stable 10 Á20% differencein average earnings (the ‘pay gap’) between men and women in the workforce, and itinsists on achieving a 70% employment rate among women despite the dramaticcollapse of fertility rates in Europe. It attributes these and all other sex differences inlabour market outcomes to sex discrimination, and is setting up a European Institutefor Gender Equality to campaign on equality issues (European Commission, 2005a,2005b). The International Labour Office (ILO) also takes a similar position, andargues that occupational segregation, in all its forms, is an injustice which must beeliminated (Anker, 1998). Despite more temperate language, this seems also to bethe OECD’s position (OECD, 2002). The usual argument is that many more womenwould achieve the top jobs in the workforce if employers could be persuaded to adoptfamily-friendly work arrangements and benefits for employees *such as parentalleave, part-time working and so forth (OECD, 2001).
There seems to be no doubt that family-friendly policies are popular among many women, and make it much easier for them to combine paid jobs with familywork. What is in doubt is that such policies produce gender equality in the workforce.
Women, careers, and work-life preferences The latest research evidence is that family-friendly policies do not make any majorpositive difference to gender equality in the labour market, as indicated by levels ofoccupational segregation, the pay gap and the glass ceiling. On the contrary, theyexacerbate these problems. This conclusion has now been drawn by several scholarsworking independently (Charles & Grusky, 2004; Hakim, 2004a; Jacobs & Gerson,2004). The research evidence suggests that it is unrealistic to expect that womencould soon achieve half of the top jobs, that these might become fully integrated witha 50/50 split between men and women. This paper reviews this evidence, theproblems, and the implications for personnel policy and careers advisory work.
One of the claims of the feminist movement, taken up by many social scientists(Jacobs & Gerson, 2004), is that there is no good justification for the ‘male’stereotype of the career: an occupation or activity that is pursued continuously, withlong full-time hours, and with a high level of dedication, virtually to the exclusion ofa major investment of time and energy in family work and family life. It is commonlyargued, or even simply taken for granted, that all occupations can be organised andcarried out on a part-time basis, or done discontinuously, so that the work can befitted around family life. The problem is seen as being created by rigid employers,who refuse to make such changes, or lack the imagination to redesign jobs andcareers in family-friendly formats [3]. In effect, the argument is that all occupations,jobs and careers can be ‘domesticated’ *in the sense of being redesigned into family-friendly formats.
There is no doubt that employers are often unwilling to reorganise work arrangements due to rigidity and/or due to the higher costs entailed. Many jobs thatare routinely offered on a part-time basis in a country such as the Netherlands areavailable exclusively as full-time jobs in southern Europe, where part-time jobs arerare. The Dutch miracle of ending high unemployment by expanding part-time jobswas the result of determined, tripartite efforts at innovation by the government, tradeunions and employers (Visser & Hemerijk, 1997). But this does not mean that alloccupations and jobs can be transformed in this way, or that there are no importantpenalties for doing so. Space does not permit a detailed review of the limitations towork reorganisation, and of which occupations are inevitably more greedy or‘hegemonic’, but some examples serve to make the point.
Some occupations and activities involve an enormous amount of travel, sometimes for long periods, often at short notice. This is obviously the case withoccupations providing an on-site service of some sort (including professions likeaccountancy and architecture, as well as crafts such as plumbing repairs), andoccupations that involve selling goods or services to a widely dispersed businessclientele. Less obviously, many senior-level management jobs also involve vastamounts of travel, sometimes long distance, frequently on an unpredictable time-table, and periodically for extended periods of time away from the home base.
Extensive amounts of travel are intrinsic to certain occupations, such as investmentbanking, news reporting, the airline and travel industries. Such occupations, and the careers based on them, are never going to be family-friendly. Attempts to organisefamily-friendly segments within them will be difficult, or the ‘sedentary’ versions ofthe job will never accumulate the same experience as the ‘mobile’ versions.
Inevitably, the mobile worker will be promoted over the sedentary worker in suchoccupations and careers, because they have much wider experience and take greaterresponsibility.
Careers requiring extensive travel are just one example of the wider category of occupations, jobs and careers that have long and/or irregular work hours that eat intopersonal life and family time. Another example is public relations work. Jobs in thisindustry can be enormously attractive to young, single people who positively relishglamorous expense-account entertaining, late nights at business-related social events,and meeting lots of people, some of them famous. Even without extensive travel,these jobs eat into private life and steal long hours of unpaid overtime. They do notgenerally appeal to women with children at home, and can rarely be made family-friendly [4].
Careers and jobs like these expose the limitations of maternity leave and parental leave schemes to change the essential nature of occupations. Most women (and somemen) in such hegemonic occupations will want to move on to different types of workafter they have children anyway, so there would be little point in keeping their jobsopen for them. Unfortunately, there is no well-developed language for distinguishingbetween jobs that are ‘demanding’ in the intellectual sense, and those that are‘demanding’ in the sense of spilling out beyond normal work hours to invade privatelives *for which hegemonic, greedy or monopolising might be the more accuratelabels. Jobs at the top of the hierarchy are frequently demanding on both thesedimensions, as well as others.
In some other occupations, the work can readily be organised on any basis at all (part-time, intermittent, self-employed or employee, term-time only, etc.), but thecompetitive nature of the industry suggests that the person who can devotethemselves full-time and permanently to the job is far more likely to be a highachiever than the ‘dilettante’ part-timer. Artistic work of all kinds is just one examplehere. People whose artistic output is sparse and unpredictable are generally less likelyto be in demand than those with a substantial, continuous and predictable output.
The same logic applies in business as well. In a competitive environment, mavericksmay do well in particular niches, but they may more often be shunned as unreliable.
In many fields, the highest achievements always require imagination, dedication, creativity, and an intensive work effort that is rarely, if ever, available from the part-time or intermittent worker. Pablo Picasso, Charles Darwin, Lance Armstrong,Marie Curie and Madonna are just some of the examples here. In these fields, part-time and intermittent workers are not excluded entirely; but they are unlikely to winthe top prizes.
One reason is that many full-time workers are not doing an 8-hour working day, in comparison with the part-time worker’s 3 Á6-hour day. Many full-time workers areactually on the job, mentally or physically, for almost 24 hours a day. Their worktakes priority over family life and social life, so they build up a momentum,knowledge, fitness and experience that can never be achieved by a part-time worker.
Women, careers, and work-life preferences It is no accident that today around half of the women in senior-level professional andmanagerial occupations in Britain are childless, even if they have married, sometimesmore than once (Hakim, 2000, 2004a). Men can achieve the same effect by having awife who is a full-time homemaker, or by remaining single *either way, they devotelittle or no time to domestic activities and family work.
Senior-level jobs may have relatively fixed hours most of the time, similar to other jobs. What differentiates them is the requirement to take responsibility formeeting deadlines, dealing with crises and solving unexpected problems *all ofwhich can require (unpaid) overtime on an unpredictable and haphazard timetable[5]. Emergencies can arise in the workplace, just as in private life, and the employeewho must leave on time every day at 5pm to collect a child from the nursery will notbe dealing with them. It is these unpredictable, stressful demands for overtime hoursthat makes senior positions less family-friendly and less attractive to women.
It is no accident that the jobs most likely to be organised on a part-time basis are lower-grade jobs with lower earnings, relatively little responsibility, and usually withfixed hours, as well as shorter hours of work. Higher-grade occupations can also beorganised on a part-time basis, but they can quickly become smaller, less responsibleversions of the full-time job rather than the same job with shorter hours. Employers’requests for overtime (even for training that cannot be squeezed into part-timers’restricted hours) are generally regarded as far more stressful and unfair by part-timeworkers than by full-time workers.
As a general rule, jobs with time sovereignty (some freedom to choose start and finish times, some control over the length of the working day, etc.) also have thelongest working hours. Jobs with unpredictable hours tend also to be jobs with longerhours. Women who want family-friendly flexible work hours usually require shortand predictable hours as well. This means that other workers will be left doing theunsocial hours and overtime that mothers avoid, and they will expect to be properlycompensated for their extra availability. Family-friendly flexible work arrangementsare never cost-free, and employers know this.
Both the European Commission and the ILO believe that occupational segregationcan and should be eliminated (Anker, 1998; European Commission, 2005a, 2005b).
They have two main reasons. First, they claim that the segregation of men andwomen into different occupations is the principal reason for earnings differencesbetween men and women. Second, they argue that occupational segregation restrictspeople’s choice of career, especially in the crucial early years of adult life. TheCommission would like to see all occupations having a 50/50 male/female split, andwould like to impose positive discrimination, or quotas, in order to achieve this. Sofar, the European Court of Justice has ruled that such policies are non-legal.
These claims and policy goals ignore the latest research results. Cross-national comparative studies by the ILO, OECD, EC (Anker, 1998; European Commission,2002; Melkas & Anker, 1997, 1998; OECD, 2002), and by academic scholars (seethe reviews in Charles & Grusky, 2004; Hakim, 1998, 2004a), have been overturning some well-established assumptions that turn out to be myths rather than fact. First,we now know that there is no direct link between occupational segregation and thepay gap; the association is coincidental rather than causal, and the two areindependent social developments or constructions. Second, there is no direct causallink between economic and social development and occupational segregation, or thepay gap; modern societies do not necessarily have lower scores on these twoindicators of gender equality in the workforce. The country with the lowest level ofoccupational segregation in the world is China, not Sweden, as so many believe.
Many countries in the Far East have lower levels of occupational segregation than inwestern Europe. The lowest pay gap in the world is not found in Sweden, as so manyclaim, but in Swaziland where women earn more than men, on average, followedclosely by Sri Lanka. Third, higher levels of female employment produce higherlevels of occupational segregation and a larger pay gap; they do not serve to improvegender equality in the workforce, as previously assumed, but worsen it. Even withinwestern Europe, countries with the lowest female employment rates tend to have thesmallest pay gaps, as illustrated by Portugal and Spain compared to Finland andGermany.
Even more disconcerting is the evidence that family-friendly policies generally reduce gender equality in the workforce, rather than raising it, as everyone hasassumed until now. This conclusion has now been drawn simultaneously by severalscholars working independently (Charles & Grusky, 2004; Hakim, 2004a; Hunt,2002; Jacobs & Gerson, 2004). In particular, Sweden’s generous family-friendlypolicies have created a larger glass ceiling problem than exists in the USA, wherethere is a general lack of such policies (Albrecht et al ., 2003; Henrekson & Dreber,2005). Women are more likely to achieve senior management jobs in the USA than inSweden: 11% versus 1.5%, respectively (Rosenfeld & Kalleberg, 1990; see alsoHenrekson & Dreber, 2005; Wright et al ., 1995). There is no doubt that family-friendly policies help women to combine paid jobs with family work. What they donot do is solve the problem of gender inequality in the workforce.
Analyses to date have often failed to distinguish between horizontal occupational segregation and vertical occupational segregation. Horizontal occupational segrega-tion exists when men and women choose different careers *for example, men arecarpenters while women are cooks. Vertical occupational segregation exists whenmen dominate higher-grade higher-paid occupations and women are concentrated inlower-grade, lower-paid occupations in the same area of activity: for example, menare managers while women are secretaries, men are surgeons while women arenurses. Most studies have focused on horizontal occupational segregation, whichmany would regard as in some sense natural, or at least not noxious, and where thereis no obvious link to earnings differences. Vertical occupational segregation is harderto measure, so is less studied. It has an obvious link to earnings differences betweenmen and women, but these would generally be regarded as justified rather thansexist: in capitalist economies it is self-evident that managers earn more than theirsecretaries. The crucial question is why are women less likely to achieve the top jobs:lack of interest? or active exclusion? Analyses of macro-level national statistical dataon the workforce cannot tell us anything at all about the social processes going on at Women, careers, and work-life preferences the micro-level. It is wrong to assume that a low percentage of women in higher-grade jobs is necessarily due to sex discrimination alone.
Strategic case studies of the professions and management Case studies of women who have achieved high status professional and managerialjobs tell us a lot more about the social processes involved. They show, for example,that such women have greatly reduced, or even eliminated, their work-life balanceproblems by remaining childless, in about half of all cases, or by lower fertility, asillustrated by one-child families. In contrast, almost all their male colleagues aremarried, with several children, but also with wives who typically remain full-timehomemakers, so that the couple operates complete role segregation in the familydivision of labour.
Another myth that has been overturned by recent research is the notion that women bring distinctively feminine approaches to management and top jobs. AsWajcman (1996, 1998) has shown, there are no visible gender differences in styles ofmanagement. Female managers differ from male managers in their personalcharacteristics and family lives, but not in the way that they do the job.
Case studies of professions that have become fully integrated, employing equal numbers of men and women are also revealing (Hakim, 1998, 2003a). Acrossmodern societies, pharmacy now employs equal numbers of men and women, andalso employs disproportionate numbers of ethnic minority people. Due to chroniclabour shortages, it is widely agreed that the profession is completely free of sex andrace discrimination. Studies of the profession in the USA, Canada, Britain, and otherEuropean countries show a large degree of job segregation within the occupation.
Women gravitate towards jobs that are local, can be done part-time or for shortperiods, and to jobs with fixed hours of work that can be fitted around family life.
Men in the profession gravitate towards ownership of independent pharmacies,which entail the long work hours and additional responsibilities of self-employmentand running a small business. Other men work towards management jobs in the largeretail chains, again accepting long hours and more overtime in return for higherearnings. Given the absence of sex discrimination in the profession, it is clear thatwomen are free to choose (even impose) whatever working arrangements they prefer.
In Britain, there is no earnings difference between full-time and part-time workers inthe profession, but there is a large 27% earnings differential between women andmen working full-time, close to the average pay gap for all fully integrated professions(Hakim, 1998). Case study research shows that these sex differentials in theprofessions are due to substantively different work orientations among men andwomen, even among university graduates (Hakim, 2000, 2004a), and hence to verydifferent career paths.
The latest research results on women’s position in the labour market are making oldtheories, especially those focusing on patriarchy and sex discrimination, out of date.
We need new theories for the 21st century, theories that take account of, and areconsistent with, the newest research findings. Preference theory does this.
Preference theory is a new theory for explaining and predicting women’s choices between market work and family work, a theory that is historically-informed,empirically-based, multidisciplinary, prospective rather than retrospective in orienta-tion, and applicable in all rich modern societies (Hakim, 2000). Lifestyle preferencesare defined as causal factors which thus need to be monitored in modern societies. Incontrast, other social attitudes, such as patriarchal values, are either unimportant aspredictors of behaviour, or else have only a very small marginal impact, by creating aparticular climate of public opinion on women’s roles (Hakim, 2003b, 2004b).
Preference theory predicts a polarisation of work-lifestyles, as a result of the diversity in women’s sex-role preferences and the three related models of family roles.
It argues that in prosperous modern societies, women’s preferences become a centraldeterminant of life choices *in particular the choice between an emphasis onactivities related to children and family life or an emphasis on employment andcompetitive activities in the public sphere. The social structural and economicenvironment still constrains women’s choices to some extent, but social structuralfactors are of declining importance *most notably social class [6]. Preference theoryforms part of the new stream of sociological theory that emphasises ideational changeas a major cause of social behaviour. Giddens’ theory of reflexive modernityemphasises individualisation as the driving force for change in late modernity.
Individualisation frees people from the influence of social class, nation, and family.
Agency becomes more important than the social structure as a determinant ofbehaviour, even when ‘structure’ is understood in Giddens’ sense of rules andresources. Men and women not only gain the freedom to choose their own biography,values and lifestyle, they are forced to make their own decisions because there are nouniversal certainties or collectively agreed conventions, no fixed models of the goodlife, as in traditional or early modern industrial societies (Beck et al ., 1994; Giddens,1991). Preference theory can be seen as an empirically-based statement of thechoices women and men actually make in late modernity. It contrasts with economictheories of the family (Becker, 1991) that assume that women and men formhomogeneous groups, with contrasting goals and preferences, which make somefamily division of labour optimal and efficient for all couples, and produces sexdifferences in investments in careers. In sum, preference theory predicts diversity inlifestyle choices, and even a polarisation of lifestyles among both men and women.
The diversity of family models and lifestyle choices is hidden in variable-centred analysis, which tends to focus on the average outcome, the modal pattern and thecentral tendency. The diversity of ideal family models and lifestyle preferences onlyemerges clearly in studies using person-centred analysis (Cairns et al ., 1998;Magnusson, 1998), which is still uncommon.
Preference theory specifies the historical context in which core values become important predictors of behaviour. It notes that five historical changes collectivelyproduce a qualitatively new scenario for women in affluent modern societies in the21st century, giving them options that were not previously available (Table 1).
Women, careers, and work-life preferences TABLE 1. The four central tenets of preference theory.
1. Five separate historical changes in society and in the labour market which started in the late 20thcentury are producing a qualitatively different and new scenario of options and opportunities forwomen. The five changes do not necessarily occur in all modern societies, and do not always occurtogether. Their effects are cumulative. The five causes of a new scenario are: the contraceptive revolution which, from about 1965 onwards, gave sexually active womenreliable control over their own fertility for the first time in history; the equal opportunities revolution, which ensured that for the first time in history women hadequal right to access to all positions, occupations and careers in the labour market. In somecountries, legislation prohibiting sex discrimination went further, to give women equal accessto housing, financial services, public services, and public posts; the expansion of white-collar occupations, which are far more attractive to women that mostblue-collar occupations; the creation of jobs for secondary earners, people who do not want to give priority to paid workat the expense of other life interests; and the increasing importance of attitudes, values and personal preferences in the lifestyle choicesof affluent modern societies.
2. Women are heterogeneous in their preferences and priorities on the conflict between family andemployment. In the new scenario they are therefore heterogeneous also in their employmentpatterns and work histories. These preferences are set out, as ideal types, in Table 2. The size of thethree groups varies in rich modern societies because public policies usually favour one or anothergroup.
3. The heterogeneity of women’s preferences and priorities creates conflicting interests betweengroups of women: sometimes between home-centred women and work-centred women, sometimesbetween the middle group of adaptive women and women who have one firm priority (whether forfamily work or employment). The conflicting interests of women have given a great advantage tomen, whose interests are comparatively homogeneous; this is one cause of patriarchy and itsdisproportionate success.
4. Women’s heterogeneity is the main cause of women’s variable responses to social engineeringpolicies in the new scenario of modern societies. This variability of response has been less evidentin the past, but it has still impeded attempts to predict women’s fertility and employment patterns.
Policy research and future predictions of women’s choices will be more successful in future if theyadopt the preference theory perspective and first establish the distribution of preferences betweenfamily work and employment in each society.
Reviews of the research evidence for the last three decades, particularly for the USA and Britain (Hakim, 2000, 2004a), show that once genuine choices are open tothem, women choose between three different lifestyles: home-centred, work-centredor adaptive (Table 2). These divergent preferences are found at all levels ofeducation, and in all social classes. Social class becomes less important thanmotivation, personal life goals, attitudes and values.
The three preference groups are set out, as sociological ideal types, in Table 2, with estimates of the relative sizes of the three groups in societies, such as Britain andthe USA, where public policy does not bias the distribution. In this case, the TABLE 2. Classification of women’s work-lifestyle preferences in the 21st century.
Family life and children are the This group is most diverse and Childless women aremain priorities throughout life. includes women who want to combine work and family, plus in life is employment ordrifters and unplanned qualifications/training forcultural capital employment/other activities.
Number of children is affected This group is very responsive to Responsive to economicby government social policy, recession/growth, etc.,including: income tax andsocial welfare benefits,educational policies, schooltimetables, child care services,public attitude towardsworking women, legislationpromoting femaleemployment, trade unionattitudes to working women,availability of part-time workand similar work flexibility,economic growth andprosperity, and institutionalfactors generally.
distribution of women across the three groups corresponds to a ‘normal’ statisticaldistribution of responses to the family Áwork conflict [7]. In practice, in mostsocieties, public policy is biased towards one group or another, by accident or bydesign, so that the exact percentages vary between modern societies, with inflatednumbers of work-centred women or home-centred women.
Women, careers, and work-life preferences Work-centred women are in a minority, despite the massive influx of women into higher education and into professional and managerial occupations in the last threedecades. Work-centred people (men and women) are focused on competitiveactivities in the public sphere *in careers, sport, politics, or the arts. Family life isfitted around their work, and many of these women remain childless, even whenmarried. Qualifications and training are obtained as a career investment rather thanas an insurance policy, as in the adaptive group. The majority of men are work-centred, compared to only a minority of women, even women in professionaloccupations (Hakim, 1998, 2003a). Preference theory predicts that men will retaintheir dominance in the labour market, politics and other competitive activities,because only a minority of women are prepared to prioritise their jobs (or otheractivities in the public sphere) in the same way as men. In the long run, it is work-centred people who are most likely to survive, and become high achievers, in greedyoccupations.
Adaptive women prefer to combine employment and family work without giving a fixed priority to either. They want to enjoy the best of both worlds. Adaptivewomen are generally the largest group among women, and are found in substantialnumbers in most occupations. Certain occupations, such as schoolteaching, areattractive to women because they facilitate a more even work Áfamily balance. Thegreat majority of women who transfer to part-time work after they have children areadaptive women, who seek to devote as much time and effort to their family work asto their paid jobs. In some countries (such as the USA and southern Europeancountries), and in certain occupations, part-time jobs are still rare, so women mustchoose other types of job, if they work at all. For example, seasonal jobs, temporarywork, or school-term-time jobs all offer a better work Áfamily balance than the typicalfull-time job, especially if commuting is also involved. When flexible jobs are notavailable, adaptive women may take ordinary full-time jobs, or else withdraw frompaid employment temporarily. Adaptive people are the group interested in schemesoffering work-life balance and family-friendly employment benefits, and will gravitatetowards careers, occupations and employers offering these advantages.
The third group, home-centred or family-centred women , is also a minority, and a relatively invisible one in the Western world, given the current political and mediafocus on working women and high achievers. Home-centred women prefer to givepriority to private life and family life after they marry. They are most inclined to havelarger families, and these women avoid paid work after marriage unless the family isexperiencing financial problems. They do not necessarily invest less in qualifications,because the educational system functions as a marriage market as well as a traininginstitution. Despite the elimination of the sex differential in educational attainment,an increasing percentage of wives in the USA and Europe are now marrying a manwith substantially better qualifications, and the likelihood of marrying a graduatespouse is hugely increased if the woman herself has obtained a degree (Hakim, 2000;Blossfeld & Timm, 2003) [8]. This may be why women remain less likely to choosevocational courses with a direct economic value, and are more likely to take coursesin the arts, humanities or languages, which provide cultural capital but have lower earnings potential. This group of workers is most likely to drop out of greedy careersrelatively early in adult life.
It is necessary to differentiate between a person’s core values and life goals, and the multitude of topics on which public opinion data are collected. There is animportant theoretical and methodological distinction between personal goals andpreferences, which are causal in relation to individual behaviour, and general socialattitudes and societal norms, which are usually non-causal (Hakim, 2003b, 2004b).
There is a distinction between choice and approval , between personal goals andpublic beliefs, between what is desired by the survey respondent for their own lifeand what is considered desirable in society in general. The two are not coterminous,and there is only a weak link between societal norms and personal preferences andgoals (Hakim, 2000). For example, people may agree that it would be better ifeveryone stopped smoking, yet choose to smoke themselves.
Preference theory provides a different explanation for the continuing pay gap andoccupational segregation. Moreover, it predicts that they will persist in the 21stcentury, that men will continue to outnumber women in the top jobs, simply becausethey try much harder to get them. The majority of working women seek a largedegree of work-life balance (Hakim, 2005), certainly more than men do. Women aremore likely to ask for shorter work hours than to ask for higher pay or promotion(Babcock & Laschever, 2003).
It can be objected that the sex differences identified in reviews of research on personality and behaviour are often small, so should not matter. This argumentconfounds macro-level and micro-level perspectives. It is true that many sexdifferences today are relatively small, even if persistent, in studies at the aggregate,national level. But differences between people are much larger at the micro-level, andcan be fundamentally important at the individual level. Selecting people for jobs orcareers is done on an individual basis, and even quite small perceived differencesbetween individuals can make the difference between being shortlisted or not,between winning the job or promotion or not. What is statistically small andrelatively unimportant in a national study can still explain cumulative differences insuccess rates at the individual level, leading to major sex differences in careers.
There are wide implications for national social policy, for employer and trade union policies, and for careers advisors. Elsewhere I have proposed a fundamentalreorientation of social policy in the European Union and in member states (Hakim,2000). At present, equal opportunities policies assume that all women are careerist intheir work orientations, and that more support needs to be given to working mothers,in the form of public childcare services and time off from work. If only a minority ofwomen are in fact careerist, and many of them are childless, then policy is at presentmisdirected, as well as overlooking people with other life goals.
The most general requirement is for policies to be even-handed between the three groups of workers, rather than assuming that one-size-fits-all policies suiteveryone. At present, the bias seems to be towards careerist women with children, a Women, careers, and work-life preferences tiny minority of all workers. Gender-neutral policies require a sharp move away fromthe current focus on working mothers. Just one example is the new law in theNetherlands giving all workers the right to ask to work part-time hours, for anyreason or none. There is no reason to focus such special privileges on workingmothers only, thus prompting jealousy and resentment among other groups ofemployees. Similarly, employers should offer long (unpaid) career breaks to allemployees, rather than parental leave for new mothers only. Cafeteria benefitsprovides one way to ensure that there is something for everyone, and no one losesout.
We should also accept that there are at least three types of career rather than just one: the truncated career that probably ends with (delayed) marriage or babies, theadaptive career that demands a large element of work-life balance over the lifecycle asa whole, and what I have called above the ‘hegemonic’ or ‘greedy’ career that caneasily become all-consuming, especially at senior levels. The evidence from a recentnational survey in Britain (Hakim, 2003a) is that all three types of worker can befound working side by side in the same occupations, albeit in different types of job.
Equal opportunities legislation allows women to choose any type of occupation,without having to squeeze into a small number of family-friendly occupations, suchas teaching, as in the 20th century. Whatever their ambitions and lifeplans, womencan now choose occupations far more freely than in the past. However, this diversityin the workforce does pose new problems for personnel managers.
For careers counsellors, this is perhaps the most startling conclusion: home- centred women seem to be just as likely to seek careers as pharmacists, lawyers, PRspecialists or IT specialists as work-centred people. However, the kinds of jobs theydo, and the level of promotion sought in each occupation, will differ from thosechosen by work-centred people and adaptive people. It is career patterns and long-term ambitions that differ between the three groups rather than occupationalchoices. This conclusion is based on just one British survey, so needs to be confirmedby other studies and data for other countries, but it is consistent with case studyresearch on the professions, as noted above.
Finally, we should also remember that many men are adaptive in their work- lifestyle preferences. Work-centred men appear to be in the majority, but they are notthe only type [9]. This is a hidden source of diversity in employee attitudes to workand careers, which extends and reinforces female diversity. The scope for unisexpolicies that recognise and value all three types of career, and benefit men andwomen equally, is far greater than feminist campaigners have imagined.
[1] The current fashion is to say that it is ‘socially constructed’, and duck the question of who has had most influence on contemporary social structures. In practice, men have so far been the dominant force in the development of social institutions and the character of public life, even if women have generally been dominant in shaping family life. It is therefore still reasonable to view society as man- [2] Social engineering typically consists of legislation and policies designed to alter behaviour, by changing the incentives and sanctions applied to particular behaviours. Laws prohibiting sexdiscrimination and equal opportunities policies are an obvious example (Hakim, 2004a).
[3] For example, Julie Mellor, the head of the Equal Opportunities Commission in Britain, when announcing her resignation in July 2005, argued that the lack of flexible work arrangements at everylevel of the economy was due to employers’ ‘lack of creativity and a lack of courage to try somethingthey haven’t tried before’.
[4] A polemical but nonetheless useful summary of the research evidence on explanations for the pay gap, and why occupations chosen by men generally pay more than occupations chosen by women, isgiven in Why Men Earn More (Farrell, 2005). A less polemical review of this research literature isgiven in Hakim (2004).
[5] For example, when the Enron scandal broke, senior executives working in risk management, insurance, and other parts of the financial services industry found themselves working continuouslyfor 48 hours or longer, sleeping at the office until their position was clarified. Similarly, hospitalsurgeons can find themselves working ‘around the clock’ after a major bombing incident or transportaccident.
[6] The declining importance of social class as a predictor of behaviour and choices in the 21st century is most obvious in politics *as illustrated by the fact that personal values, rather than social class,differentiated support for Al Gore and George W. Bush in the closely contested USA election of2000.
[7] The distribution set out in Table 2 is based on an extensive review of the empirical evidence for the last two decades presented in Hakim (2000), and has been reconfirmed by subsequent nationalsurvey research in European countries (Hakim, 2003a) and in the USA (Hattery, 2001).
[8] Studies of ‘self-service’ marriage markets in modern societies show that most women are concerned to marry a man with equal or better education (and thus equal or better earnings potential), whereasmost men place far less weight on this criterion in their choice of spouse. The majority of men witheducation beyond basic secondary education marry women with less education, because men givemore weight to physical attractiveness (Hakim, 2000).
[9] National surveys in Britain and Spain suggest that just over half of men are work-centred, and the rest are adaptives, with home-centred men too few to be counted (Hakim, 2003a). A more recentsurvey in Belgium (Flanders) found three-quarters of all prime age men (those aged 20 Á50 years) tobe work-centred; only one-quarter were adaptives, and the home-centred group was so tiny as to bevirtually invisible at around 1% of the age group (Corijn & Hakim, forthcoming).
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