News & Politics

Middle-Aged Women Are Kind of ‘Meh’ About Their Careers


According to a new McKinsey report covered in the Wall Street Journal, women get way less ambitious around middle age. “About 64% of women ages 45 to 54 years old expressed a desire to advance professionally, compared with 78% of the men in the same age range. The comparable figures were 92% and 98%, respectively, for women and men aged 23 to 34.”

Rachael Larimore at Doublex posits, in reaction to these stats, “Shouldn’t women be finding NEW energy at that age?” a/k/a, after their children have gotten older, presuming they had children, and mothers can get back to the business of their careers. No, she says, it’s counterintuitive perhaps, but there is still plenty of child-rearing work to be done, and maybe more, as the kids (and parents) get older.

But what about the women who don’t have kids, or the women who were never all that concerned about “careers” in the first place? Or the women who’ve hit a glass ceiling? The McKinsey report says that of the 15 percent of women who make up the top management panels “‘are doubly handicapped’ because 62% occupy staff jobs ‘that rarely lead to a CEO role.'”

Then there’s the awful stereotype of the bitchy, career-obsessed older woman, the one whom everyone equally loathes and feels sorry for and behind her back talks about how she has no one, that’s why she’s so focused on her career. We’re not saying she exists — we’re saying that there are people who think she does. Might some women attempt to avoid that stereotype, perhaps by lying about their ambition, or by setting it aside because it’s not “attractive”?

That is worrisome.

Less worrisome: Isn’t it natural to grow more comfortable in your role, to want things to be a little easier, less tiring, less 24-7 100 percent ambition once you get into your later years? Isn’t that what getting older (and finally retiring and being able to take a vacation) is all about? And, look, male ambition drops as well as age increases! We all get lazier — fine, less ambitious — because, jeez, you know, we get tired. We get old. We get happy with where we are, maybe.

But what about this ambition gap between men and women aged 23 to 34! Can there really be only 2 percent of lazy young dudes to 8 percent of lazy young women? Does this mean that young men aren’t actually such slackers after all?

Coaching Urged for Women [WSJ]

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 5, 2011


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