With Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In came a fresh round of debate over women in leadership, and it seems the louder voices have been in favor of women climbing the corporate ladder regardless of how they choose to prioritize family. So I was interested when a study came out recently showing that just 15 percent of young women aspire to the top jobs.
Most of the 21-to-33 year old women surveyed by the Zeno Group said they didn’t want the No. 1 job at a large organization. They don’t want to be Cheryl Sandberg, as much as they might respect her. The women said the job wouldn’t be worth giving up personal goals like children, with more than half saying they felt the sacrifices made by women leaders aren’t worth it.
That part was interesting enough, but what really caught my attention was the way these results were treated. The story by BusinessNewsDaily went on to quote Zeno Group CEO Barby Siegel, who addressed young women’s reluctance to sacrifice personal goals as a failure of recruiters.
“We need to think about doing things differently when helping millennial women develop their careers and weigh the sacrifices that may or may not be required,” Siegel said. “We do not want to risk losing this talented generation of professionals.”
Let me be clear. I don’t have a problem with women choosing to pursue a career. I don’t think moms working while their kids are little is a bad thing. It’s an individual choice, and I’m not about to say all women should be stay at home moms.
What I do have a problem with is a culture that discourages motherhood and family to the point that a woman’s desire to give up career goals for personal ones is considered a problem for job recruiters to fix.
Much of our culture has lost the idea that motherhood is even a vocation. Stay at home moms are viewed as antiquated or prudish, while working women are viewed as liberated and modern. We celebrate the achievments of women with desk jobs, and sneer at the food stains and ponytail of the mother of toddlers, thinking how nice it would be “not to work.”
But motherhood is a vocation — an absolutely essential one. A mother may not spend her day running companies or negotiating deals in the board room. It’s not usually so sexy. But whether she’s cleaning up spilled juice or reading fairy stories, a woman who spends her day with her children is shaping human souls.
Previous generations had a firmer grasp on the value of motherhood. Author G.K. Chesterton described it as the duty of enlightenment — explaining the whole world to a new human being.
“How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe?” he wrote in What’s Wrong With the World. “How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.”