Expectations Of Women In The Workforce

Answer by Jane Chin, PhD, STEM Leadership & Operations, on Quora.

What is "Holding Women Back"?

We are not "held" back.

We are crippled at the gate.

First, I believe that top tier jobs discriminate against work-life balance in general.

This naturally targets women, who remain primary caretakers when kids or elderly parents are involved. Men and women are perceived differently when they consciously choose to care for their kids/elderly relatives. It is still more socially acceptable for women to be caretakers, than for men.

Second, women may have different views on what's important in life because men are conditioned to equate success with validity as men: men are victims as much as women are victims in this "gender inequality" when it comes to sources of validation.

When women are looking at cost of sacrifice of personal relationships to get an E- or C-level position based on what's involved (basically you rarely see your family because of the travel), who in their right minds would want to make that trade?

Men probably know this trade-off is insane as well, but they have been taught to ignore it, and have been given all the justification tools to live without. There are also ways to blind, numb, and otherwise lie to ourselves when we make choices that we know are wrong for our values.

Which brings me to this third point: remote work/telecommuting just isn't as accepted as "on site work", which means women who otherwise have all the ambition in the world but cannot stitch contiguous time slots during a day, also cannot take jobs that don't offer that level of flexibility.

Many of us would love to already have enough money to install a nursery at our offices or have a team of nannies depending on the number of kids we have, but most of us don't, which means most of us women get to consciously make trade-offs between family and career, in hopes that one day we will earn enough to buy a level of flexibility and freedom to live value-driven lives.

Men who cannot afford childcare may ask their wives to make that trade off by staying at home as caretaker. In cases where their wives earn more or will not stay home instead, they hire nannies or use childcare.

Most of us come to a fork in the road when we have to decide how much farther/further we wish to gamble with our values, for a still-uncertain reward system. Some of us choose the fork that looks like we've set back the feminist movement, because it's either pick our values NOW or reclaim our souls NEVER.

Fourth, let's face it, American culture is one of the first world nations where it is socially acceptable to screw your personal lives in exchange for work advancement.

It is socially acceptable to treat your family second but career first, because you are labeled as "having a strong work ethic" by society and peers.

What labels do top executives love promoting?

"A conscientious family man" or "Ambitious man with strong work ethic"?

As if conscientious family men and women can't also have ambition and strong work ethic.... but their priorities/values get in the way of company demands.

People don't care if you are an alcoholic or drug user if you can work twenty hours a day and see your family rarely/never. Your job title makes you who you are in this culture: not how you treat the family unit you have chosen to create.

Fifth, the U.S. has very few women at the top of even political ranks. We've never had a female president. Even the most patriarchal chauvinistic cultures (S. Korea) has a woman at the top. So does Brazil and Argentina.

People who keep saying that feminists are ruining this nation need to look at just how "feminist" we are, when other more chauvinistic societies are led by women (see this list? We're not on it.http://www.jjmccullough.com/char...).

I feel all this talk about gender empowerment is a crock of crap because nothing systemic actually changes.

Want to change the system to advance women? Change the identity conversations for men.

Instead of the current standards of job titles, how much money you make, how you look to others, how well you appear strong by hiding all weaknesses: teach men that their overall success as individuals and validity as "men" are defined by how much they are also contributing to their interpersonal relationships and communities, and how well they create work-life balance for themselves and their families.

Soon, men at the top will realize the current American corporate culture and social climate is antithetical to men achieving this. In their personal interest and value fulfillment, they will change work policies.

These policies that support a different "success identity" criteria for men will immediately promote women's career advancement prospects.

Doing good for one half will do well for the other half.

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