Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Women and Business - Still an Uneasy Relationship

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Women and Business - Still an Uneasy Relationship

Article excerpt

Every year, Fortune magazine celebrates women in the top echelons of corporate America by publishing a list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. Their titles are impressive - CEO, chairman, president - and photos portray them as polished and confident.

What an inspiration they could be to the young women following them.

But what if those young women don't aspire to a corner office? Yesterday, a week after the Fortune list appeared on newsstands, a major national study of teenage girls revealed a surprising finding: While 97 percent of girls polled expect to work to support themselves or their families, only 9 percent want careers in business. Among boys, the figure is 15 percent.

"Girls of this generation are quite ambitious, which is exciting," says Fiona Wilson, a professor at Simmons College School of Management and an author of the study, which polled more than 3,000 girls and 1,200 boys in middle school and high school. She finds it encouraging that half the girls prefer professions such as doctors, lawyers, and architects. "We're not going back to the stereotype of their mothers' generation, where women were thinking about being nurses and teachers."

But why do girls shy away from business? The number of women applying to business schools has dropped off. By contrast, women make up half the students in medical and law schools.

Unlike boys in the study, who say they want to earn a lot of money, girls place great importance on helping others and improving society. But they don't see connections between those goals and business, which they equate with finance and numbers. And they're less confident than boys about their business- related skills.

Teen girls also place a high value on having enough time to spend with family and friends. In describing business, Professor Wilson says, "they used many images involving stress - images about dads having to make conference calls on vacation, and moms always being tired when they got home, or complaining about their bad bosses."

As it happens, mothers are the primary source of career advice for daughters. But parents' goals are often less well defined for girls than for boys.

"Mothers express their hope and aspirations for daughters in terms of wanting them to be happy and have a lot of options, but they don't translate that directly into business opportunities," says Connie Duckworth, head of The Committee of 200, a national women's business leadership group that commissioned the study. …

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