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Stop shaming women for focusing on their careers and not their family

The gender wage gap is not a fairytale, as much as we might want it to be.

Some are still skeptical it exists — it’s 2018, after all, we live in a world where pronouns are an important role in your self-identification, why would women be treated any different from men?

In a perfect society, the gender gap doesn’t exist and women are able to walk into their job confidently, not having to worry about Bob’s awkward and inappropriate lunch chatter.

But we do not live in a perfect world; table corners are still pointy, your social security number still comes on an un-laminated piece of paper, and women are still marginalized, whether we like to admit it or not.

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At my age, I’m starting to feel the real pressures of getting married and having children. It seems everyone I know has started on one or the other, focusing on their families and the life they’re building around them.

Yesterday I came across an article in The Federalist (so you know it’s trash) titled, “If women want a family, they need to prioritize marriage above their careers.

The article writes that over the years, though women between the ages of 18 and 32 believe that marriage is one of the most important things on their list, more women are putting their careers first, and fewer men are wanting to get married, resulting in an imbalance of traditional gender roles and less marriages all around.

“Conversely, today’s young women are encouraged to prioritize a career. They’re groomed to value financial independence over marriage and motherhood. Ergo, women put all their eggs in one basket—the career basket—and assume the rest will take care of itself. Only it doesn’t.”

A career is a long, drawn out process… But so is a happy marriage.

Lately, I’ve also been seeing a lot of people settle down just because they feel like their time is limited, and that they need to find a husband – any husband – that would be a decent fit for their current or future children.

Obviously, this rarely lasts, with divorce still dominating America. How on earth do you expect a long-lasting, healthy marriage if you barely know the guy? And what example is that setting for your children?

The Guardian released a piece titled, “Why does America still have so few female doctors?” The article takes us on an in-depth examination of the gender disparities found in the medical field.

Statistics say that “Since 1992, women have made up at least 40% of medical school students,” with a 50% peak in 2017 alone.

The article talks about other statistics; how a mere 15% of department chairs are women, only 30% received tenured positions, and how 41% felt offended at some point in their careers simply for being women, while only 6% of men have experienced the same trials.

We also follow the stories of two different female doctor experiences. One was the author’s friend, who was in the process of completing her residency with her male partner.

Nervous over the process, she turned to her Dean for advice, and was met with:

“I’m sure it will all work out. After all, in 20 years your boyfriend will be running his department and someone has to take care of your kids.”

Another experience was cited by a gynecologist who constantly faced discrimination for being a woman in her field of work (ironic right?), resulting in her leaving work. She shares that the men who were working with her were making much more money than her; when the issue was raised, she was told that they “had families to support and she didn’t.”

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These narratives are found in so many different professional fields. Though women officially make up a larger number of law students, males are still occupying the seats of Congress; female psychologists outnumber men, yet are getting paid less and taking on more debt; and female college graduates as a whole are likely to land a lower-paying job compared to male graduates. On top of this, men in female dominated industries are making more money than women.

What’s the problem here? What does the gap entail exactly; is it a fear that women have other commitments with being mothers and caretakers, or is it a belief that wouldn’t be able to commit to something long term? Or the traditional male/female dynamic that we’re used to that continues to stand in our way? And what’s the take-away when it comes to careers and marriages?

The take-away is that you are entitled to lead the happiest, healthiest, and most wholesome life that you want to. If that includes working on your career until your late 30’s or 40’s before settling down, then do it.

If that means that settling down simply isn’t the life for you, so be it. If prioritizing your relationship and marriage seems to be the most important vision in your future, then that’s what you should be focused on. Different strokes for different folks.

As for women in the workforce, it’s sad that we’re dealing with this in 2018, but it’s a reality we should remain cognizant of.

Together, we can work towards the change that we need, one step at a time. Movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp show how far we’ve come, and I don’t foresee that ending anytime soon, just strengthening our bonds to a more equal future.