Special Report:  Wonder Woman Work-Life Balance Study

Are U.S. Women Achieving Work-Life Balance?

February 2014

SheByShe recently polled its members to find out what topics interest them most. At the very top of the list was “Work-Life Balance.” Clearly, this is a very hot issue for women today. The survey received the strongest response we’ve seen to date, filled with colorful sentiments about how women are feeling.

 

We heard from over 700 women across the U.S.  Most were Internet-savvy, “Millennials” between 25-34 years old, in a wide variety of professions.  There was nearly an even split between married and not married, and with or without dependent children.

 

This study’s biggest take-away is that today’s women are amazing—juggling careers and very full personal lives.  We don’t think it is a stretch to say that U.S. women are truly “Wonder Women.”  They are achieving incredible things.

 

In this study, you will learn:

  • Women’s overall feelings about work-life balance

  • How women feel reflecting on the impact the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s

  • Whether today’s women feel they are better off than their mothers when she was their age

 

 

WORK-LIFE BALANCE EMERGES AS AN ISSUE FOR MANY

Most women in this study feel satisfied with their career achievements to date, although it has come with a cost.

 

 

 

Seventy percent of working women with children questioned feel they have made significant compromises both in their career and as a parent because of all the demands in their life.  Although not as significant, 54 percent of working women without children in this study also feel they have made significant compromises in their personal life to further their career.

 

Beyond that, women in this study with and without children feel they have made significant compromises to their health, physical appearance and romantic life because of other demands in their lives.  This is amplified for women with children.

 

 

 

 

Still, 91 percent of the women with children said they work both to financially support their family, and because it brings them satisfaction.  And, for that reason, there’s extremely strong gratitude for the early feminist movement.

 

STRONG GRATITUDE FOR THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT

 

We are now two generations from the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. SheByShe asked the women participating in this study if they thought this movement helped women today.  A majority of women we questioned—82 percent—feel the early feminist movement helped women today. 

 

When asked specifically why the movement has helped, a majority of the women who responded feel the biggest positive impact is that women now have careers and more opportunity.

 

 

 

Here are some of the voices from women reflecting on the feminist movement:

They paved the way for me to be doing what I'm doing. The field I work in was and still is male dominated but it's getting better.”

 

“Now we are equal to men and can help support our families and give our children a brighter future.”

 

Only 15 percent of the women questioned feel the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s didn’t help women today.  The biggest reason for this sentiment is that it created work-life balance issues for women.

 

Some of these women also feel the movement hasn’t gone far enough, and there are remaining unfair equality issues today—especially related to women’s pay.

 

 

 

Here are some of their voices:

“Women have greater opportunities than they did before the feminist movement. The downside to 70s feminism was the myth that many of us believed: you can have equal success in all areas of your life. Not true.”

 

“The feminist movement put so much pressure on women to have a successful career AND be there for the kids. If they're successful then there are sacrifices made with health, marital relations, personal interests, etc.”

 

“I feel we still have a lot more to accomplish. Women still earn less than men at equal jobs and some are still lacking respect from their male counterparts in some industries.”

 

Anecdotally, some of the responding women who feel positive about the movement also believe work-life balance needs to be addressed.  Here is what one respondent had to say:

“Yes, [the feminist movement helped] BUT they dropped the ball on working mothers. What they were striving for was equal pay and opportunity. That was huge, but at this point we need to start fighting for rights of working mothers. The demands are different.”

 

GENERALLY FEELING BETTER OFF THAN MOM

 

With women making so many gains so quickly, SheByShe was interested in whether or not women feel they are better off than their mothers when she was their age.  Most women in our study—69 percent—do feel better off than their mother when she was their age. 

 

Thirty-one percent do not.

 

There’s a long list describing the reasons why women feel better off than their mothers.  A better family life, meaning happier marriages, being married versus a single mom, or not marrying at a young age is at the top of the list, along with having more control over planning when and how many children to have. 

 

 

 

Here’s what some respondents said:

“My mother was a housewife in a poor marriage with 6 children to raise and next to no resources at hand.”

 

“I have a career, no kids nor a husband to focus on. I can afford to make certain sacrifices for my career.”

 

The next most common reasons have to do with career achievements and financial security or stability:

“I'm healthy. I'm working. I'm in total control of my life and my finances, none of which was true for my mother.”

 

“She was not working for a company that she liked, and it did not pay her well at all. She struggled to pay bills.”

 

As you can see, many of the responding women listed a number of reasons why they feel better off than their mothers when she was their age:

“At my age, my mom was already starting to deal with significant health issues. I'm more independent and self-sufficient than she is/was.”

 

“My mother never achieved a college degree. She has no financial stability. I do have these things.”

 

Thirty-one percent of the women we interviewed do not feel they are better off than their mothers when she was their age. There is a long list of reasons why. Fifteen percent of these women say their mother had better financial security and 10% envy that their mother was married when she was their age. 

 

 

 

Below are some of their comments:

“I struggle to make ends meet.”

 

“Well, she was married with kids.”

 

Many of these women feel their mother was a “Wonder Woman”—able to successfully juggle family and a career.  The responding women don’t feel as accomplished.

“She had two children, and her career was a success at 32.”

 

She had a husband, a career, and a family by my age and was fulfilled and supported.”

 

Another 7 percent of those who feel they are not better off than their mothers noted their circumstances are actually about the same. 

“I don't feel I'm better off or worse off.  My Mom did the best for our family. I feel I do for mine as well.”

 

Here is a snapshot of who responded to this study:

 

RESPONDENT PROFILE

 

  • 51% are between the ages of 25-34 years old, skewing the volume of responses towards this younger group.  When looking at all U.S. women between the ages of 25-64, 25% fall into this age bracket.

 

 

 

  • The women participating in this work-life balance study are married and have children in the household more often than the general U.S. female population.  This is expected since the topic of the survey is work-life balance--which is often associated with career versus family trade-offs.

     

 

 

 

 

  • Women with household incomes under $25k a year are not well represented in this study.  This is not surprising given the collection method requires computer access and the topic is about work-life balance. 

     

 

  • The responding women come from a broad range of professions with strong representation from teachers/educators, business management and the medical professions among many others.

     

     

 

 

 

SUMMARY

 

SheByShe learned that Wonder Woman does exist.  In the U.S. today, women are juggling careers, families and/or full personal lives.  It comes with a great cost.  Seventy percent of women with children feel they compromise their careers and family life because of all the demands in their lives.  Similarly, 54 percent of women without children say they compromise their careers because of all the demands in their lives. 

 

Yet, women feel it is worth it.  A whopping 91 percent of women with children in this study say they work both to financially support their families and because it brings them satisfaction.  For that reason, 82 percent of the women in the study think the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s helped women today.  Now that we are two generations from this movement, most women in this study also feel they are better off than their mothers when she was their age. 

 

METHODOLOGY

 

SheByShe conducted an online survey January 2014.  There were 726 completed responses from women ages 25-64 years old across the U.S.