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Women at Work

Does Work Make Women Happy?

This past Sunday, the New York Times published “Are Women Allowed to Love Their Jobs?” by op-ed writer Jill Filipovic. While the piece didn’t actually attempt to answer the promised question, it did pose the following up in its place:


Does work make women happy?

First, the good news from the piece:

  • Work means independence
  • Work provides purpose
  • Working correlates with better mental and physical health
  • The more women work, the happier they are
  • Happy working women equate to happy families - now and in the future

    • Daughters of working mothers tend to be higher achieving, work themselves, make more money and spend more time with their children than do daughters of women who did not work
    • Men who were raised by working mothers do more household work and help more with child care than sons of stay-at-home moms
    • Men who have stay-at-home wives are more likely than men with working wives to penalize their female co-workers, denying them promotions and viewing them unfavorably

And now, the bad news, according to the New York Times:

  • Work does not form identities for women. Identities for women are relational (wife, mother, daughter, etc…)
  • Working women cannot have it all
  • Women who have young children and work long hours do not tend to be happy
  • American government and workplaces are slow to implement policies that would enable women to have better work experiences. (Who is at fault here, according to Filipovic? Perhaps Feminists? “That feminists are so often unable or unwilling to make a vigorous moral argument in favor of women working outside the home is perhaps one reason we have not yet seen the political groundswell necessary to pass the workplace policies we so desperately need.”)
  • Working women enjoy tepid support: the general American consensus is ambivalent on whether adult women working, and especially mothers working, is positive
  • Who cares about happiness - most women’s socio-economic situations dictate working out of necessity, not choice

But does work make YOU happy? Ultimately, that’s a very personal choice, one that is rarely straightforward. For example, I do love my job, and it does make me happy (most days), however, does that mean I wouldn’t love to cut back my hours and spend more time with my family or in Pilates class or cooking healthy dinners instead of (sometimes) serving frozen foods? Of course I would, yet that’s just not plausible on a variety of levels.

Share your thoughts with us and our community. Head over to our Facebook page and let us know. Then join our community to make women’s experiences at work better, together.

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