Anne Applebaums column in todays WaPo focuses on the family-work trade-offs that have gotten short shrift in the Summers brouhaha. Heres my favorite snippet:
Too often the missing component of the debate about the dearth of tenured female scientists, or female chief executive officers, or women in Congress, is the word "family." But Summers did call the work-vs.-family choice the most important problem for women who want tenure: In academia, as in other professions, high-powered employers "expect a large number of hours in the office, they expect a flexibility of schedules to respond to contingency, they expect a continuity of effort through the life cycle, they expect . . . a level of commitment that a much higher fraction of married men have been historically prepared to make than of married women." It isnt ability or discrimination that hold women up most, in other words, but the impossibility of making a full-time commitment to work in a culture that demands 80-hour weeks, as well as to family in a society unusually obsessed with its children.
We all know this anecdotally, but research confirms it. A British sociologist, Catherine Hakim, recently concluded for example that out of 3,700 working-age women she surveyed, about a third were fully focused on their jobs, about a third were fully focused on their families, and about a third wanted a mix -- meaning, invariably, that they took the sort of job that doesnt lead to fast-track promotion. If these numbers hold there never will be a 50-50 split between men and women at the highest professional or managerial levels of anything: The ratio will always hover around 2 to 1.
Is this nature or nurture? I dont see that it matters. What matters is that those women who want to become high achievers can do so, but those who want to stay home some of the time arent forced, by economics or social pressure, to take high-pressure jobs.