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Women face challenges balancing career and family

November 30, 2006

It is a known fact that the majority of students on the UW-River Falls campus are females. Many of these women plan to graduate, begin their careers and eventually get married and have families. Yet many don’t realize a number of frustrating obstacles that exist when it comes to juggling a successful career and maintaining a happy home.

These obstacles were discussed Nov. 16 at the River Falls Public Library during a presentation titled, “Walking the Tightrope of Career and Family Planning: Can Today’s Women Really Have It All?” Psychology professor and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Brad Caskey, along with associate psychology professor Travis Tubre, addressed issues that face women today.

“Social roles said [in the ‘60s and ‘70s] you will marry, you will have a career and you will have kids,” Caskey said.

Though they are still encouraged and practiced, he said these roles sometimes create problems for women with families. Even now, the division of household chores remains practically the same as it did in the ‘50s, leaving working mothers the responsibility of not only having a job, but also coming home to clean, cook and help the kids with their homework.

Many female students understand this, but remain confident about their future careers and family choices.

“It depends on the husband,” senior Emily Manor said. “But I’m planning to continue teaching after having a baby.”

Sophomore Ashley Davis agrees.

“I plan on starting a family sometime after I get a job and continuing to work when I start a family,” Davis said.

These women will not only face some potential conflicts at home, but in their careers as well.

“When they (women) entered the workforce in the ‘60s and ‘70s, they had dreams that society would change along with them, but it hasn’t,” Tubre said.

In 2004, a release by the U.S. Census Bureau showed women make 75.5 percent on the dollar of what men make. Statistics also show that the wage gap between men and women is larger for women who choose to pursue a family along with their career.

“If women leave and re-enter the workforce after giving birth, it gets harder to achieve the financial success of a man who hasn’t necessarily taken that amount of time off,” Tubre said.

Even if a woman decides to take off a couple months to spend some time with a newborn, many corporations don’t allow paid time off for maternity leave, leaving the mother with no choice but to quit and re-enter the workforce completely.

The numerous obstacles women face in their careers may be causing them to leave the workforce in frustration.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of females in the workforce has declined 5 percent in the past fours years.

“I think they are just fed up,” Tubre said. “Unless something changes, the number may still decline.

Even if the number continues to drop, many women will enter the workforce and choose to face the obstacles that stand before them in pursuit of finding happiness.

“Women can have it all,” Caskey said. “It just depends on what ‘all’ means.”

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