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What Men Want: Domestic Bliss

Vivia Chen

November 12, 2013

© .shock_iStockphotoThis is newsworthy: According to a newly released survey by Citi and LinkedIn, more men than women place a higher priority on love, marriage, kids, and the whole domestic kit and caboodle. Yup, you heard right: Men are the true guardians of family values!

Here are the key findings from "Today's Professional Woman Report," which surveyed over 1,000 female and male professionals on LinkedIn:

- More men than women want it all (marriage and kids—not just career). The survey finds that 79 percent of men say "having it all" means having a "strong, loving marriage" vs. 66 percent of women who feel that way. Also, 86 percent of men "factor children into their definition of success vs. 73 percent of women."

- More men than women believe in the institution of marriage. The survey finds that 25 percent of women think that marriage is not neccesary in a "strong, loving relationship," while only 14 percent of men share that view.

- Women increasingly say that love and marriage do not define their success. Since 2012, the number of women "who do not factor marriage or relationships into their definition of success has nearly doubled (from 5 percent to 9 percent)."

- Both men and women say work/life balance is a major concern It's a virtual dead-heat: 50 percent of men vs. 48 percent of women cite the need for balance.

All told, it's quite a reversal in gender roles. Impressed? Well, don't be.

To me, the survey simply reinforces the privileged position that men have always enjoyed. Frankly, it's easy to sing the virtue of family life, when you've always had someone at home to keep things tidy. So why not rant that a career without a loving family is empty—if you've always had both?

But what I think the survey does show is a shift in the attitudes of women. They seem more independent, more ambitious, and less concerned with the trappings of marriage. That's the positive spin. Less positive, perhaps, is that women realize how difficult it is to "have it all." Unlike men, women have expectations for marriage and kids that seem to be tempered by the reality of how ambition can clash with responsibilites at home.

Indeed, where the gender gap really shows up is in the responses to questions about company perks. By a wide margin, women rated flex-time (90 percent of women vs. 72 percent of men) and good maternity/paternity leave policies (56 percent of women vs. 36 percent of men) as key benefits. As Amanda Hess writes in Slate: "Shifting the work-life balance conversation will require men to translate their “family-oriented” identity into more hours actually spent with family." In other words, men have to put action to their words.

So where does all this leave us? Pretty much where we've been: Women are still searching for ways to keep all the balls in the air—while men pontificate about the importance of a balanced life. Nice.

E-mail  Vivia Chen: vchen@alm.com     Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist


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11 14, 2013
Dear Ms. Chen,
How interesting your post is!
May everyone have the LIFE they want.
Thank you..
Always, happy and well, may everyone be...

Great article. I think that many women associate marriage with more home responsibilties, more pressure at work and not enough help to do it all well.

Men, on the other hand have not historically had that challenge with marriage. For men, marriage has meant having a wife to manage your home life so that you can manage your career. They tend to retain that expectation even when their wife works full-time.

I think that the women list having a "strong, loving relationship as a goal because without the titles of "husband and wife" everyone tends to do their fair share at home.

You are always "spot on".
Thank you for articulating the sentiments of women today. Married women (who have career aspirations) have to have a husand who is on board with the entire family-lie-work-etc. activites,,and NOT just when it is convenient, politically correct, etc. for him. Flexiility, something women have always had to incorporate, wil not always be looked upon highly for men...though that attitude may be coming.

In my experience, my husband and I have worked towards achieving a true 50/50 partnership; in both our careers and raising our family. We each reap the benefits of both...and our children understand and respect how we live and work (Feel free to ask them!) When both men and women choose to demonstrate what they value, it works. I'm not saying it's easy, but it certainly works. It's always about aligning actions with values that creates success.

My initial reaction to those statistics was exactly the same as yours. However, I will say that in my workplace (professional services firm) I see lots of men taking advantage of flexibility in the same way that the women do - by leaving "early" around 5:30 or so to be with their families and then working from home in the evenings. As far as the notion of "having it all", empirical evidence tells me that you can only have it if your partner is willing to forego it. Most of the people in my office (both men and women) who climb the ladder while raising children do so with the help of a stay at home spouse.

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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