Women now make up almost half of the U.S. labor force, up from 38% in 1970.

This nearly fortyyear trend has been fueled by a broad public consensus about the changing role of women in society. A solid majority of Americans (75%) reject the idea that women should return to their traditional roles in society, and most believe that both husband and wife should contribute to the family income. But in spite of these long-term changes in behaviors and attitudes, many women remain conflicted about the competing roles they play at work and at home. Working mothers in particular are ambivalent about whether full-time work is the best thing for them or their children; they feel the tug of family much more acutely than do working fathers. As a result, most working mothers find themselves in a situation that they say is less than ideal. They¶re also more likely than either at-home moms or working dads to feel as if there just isn¶t enough time in the day. Four-in-ten say they always feel rushed, compared with a quarter of the other two groups. But despite these pressures and conflicts, working moms, overall, are as likely as athome moms and working dads to say they¶re happy with their lives. Whether women work outside the home or not, family responsibilities have a clear impact on the key life choices they make. Roughly three-in-ten women who are not currently employed (27%) say family duties keep them from working. And family appears to be one of the key reasons that many do not break through the ³glass ceiling´ to the top ranks of management ² that¶s the view, anyway, of about a third of the public. Working Mothers

These findings echo the results of a 2007 Pew Research Center survey in which amajority of working mothers (60%) said the ideal situation for them would be to work part time. As an overall share of the labor force.1 The growth in the share of women in the workforce has leveled off in recent years. most (74%) work full time while 26% work part time. An even higher percentage of women with children ages 17 or younger (66%) work either full or part time. just as women¶s participation rate stopped climbing. peaking in 2000. 59% of women now work or are actively seeking employment. Women¶s Growing Presence in the Workforce The percentage of women working or actively seeking employment grew steadily from the 1950s onward. Among those working mothers. the fact remains that women have transformed the American workplace over the past 50 years. Only one-in-five say they would choose part-time work.S.According to data collected by the U. A survey taken this summer by the Pew Research Center¶s Social & Demographic Trends Project asked working mothers whether they would prefer to work full time or part time. Working fathers have a much different perspective. An overwhelming majority (79%) say they prefer full-time work. A strong majority of all working mothers (62%) say they would prefer to work part time. . This represented a significant increase from 10 years earlier when only 48% of working mothers had said the same. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 37% of working moms would prefer to work full time. Nonetheless. women today comprise 47%. and in so doing have created a series of conflicts and challenges for today¶s working women that have proven to be difficult to resolve.

public opinion has become increasingly supportive of this new reality.Public Views on the Changing Role of Women As women have taken a more active role in the labor force. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has been trackingpublic attitudes on social and .

In 1987. only 19% agree that women should return to their traditional roles while 75% disagree. . Today. Seven-in-ten Americans (71%) agree with the statement ³I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage. Looking more specifically at the question of women and the workplace. Young people are among the most progressive on this issue. and young people express the least conservative views: 61% of those under age 30 say they have old-fashioned values about family and marriage. Again men and women are in agreement on this issue. Further evidence of the changing attitudes about family and the role of women can be seen in another item included in the Pew Research Center¶s values surveys. data from the General Social Survey shows how attitudes changed from the late 1980s to the turn of the century. this is down significantly from 87% who held this view in 1987. Among those under age 30. Women and men are equally likely to reject the notion that women should return to their traditional roles. the percent of Americans who strongly agreed grew steadily from 1988 to 2002. In 1988 only 15% strongly agreed that both spouses should contribute to the household income. for the past 20 years. including the changing role of women. by 2002 29% strongly agreed (another 28% agreed but not strongly). 30% of Americans said women should return to their traditional roles in society.political values. When asked whether they agreed or disagreed that both the husband and the wife should contribute to the household income. while 66% disagreed with this statement. 84% disagree with the idea that women should go back to a more traditional role.´ While still a strong majority.

Pew Research Center data shows that strong concern over the impact of day care on the nation¶s children has persisted over time. strong majorities said a woman who is married but has not yet had children should work full time. 68% of the public agreed that too many children are being raised in day care centers these days. In 1987. Respondents were more accepting of full-time work for a woman whose youngest child had started school. attitudes about a special class of female workers ² namely mothers of young children ² have changed very little. In the 2003 Pew Research Center survey 50% of mothers with children under age 5 completely agreed that too many children are being raised in day care centers today. Mothers themselves are particularly concerned about this issue. even then pluralities in 1994 and 2002 said part-time work would be preferable under those circumstances. However. In 1994 and again in 2002 the General Social Survey asked whether women should work outside the home under certain circumstances. This compared with 36% among the general public. In both years. The Challenges of Today¶s Reality . However. only 10% in 1994 and 11% in 2002 said a woman with a young child should work full time. 72% agreed with this statement. In 2003.Even as society has become more accepting of women¶s role in the workforce.

but public opinion hasn¶t yet fully come to terms with the tradeoffs inherent in working and raising young children. than moms who work full or part time. According to a 2007 Pew Research Center survey. while most dads (54%) say the ideal situation for a child is to have a mom who doesn¶t work at all. In perhaps the most powerful evidence of the cross-pressures that many working mothers feel every day. on average. society has endorsed this historic change. these at-home moms are slightly younger.Herein lies the dilemma: women are a permanent part of the workforce. Large majorities of Americans believe that the ideal situation for both mother and child is that a mother with young children does not hold a full-time job. Four-in-ten say the ideal situation for a young child is a mother who works part time. only 13% of moms who work full time say having a mother who works full time is the ideal situation for a young child. including 34% of women with children age 17 or younger. a plurality of moms (49%) say having a mom who works part time is what would benefit a child most. do not work outside the home. However. Why Some Women Don¶t Work? Roughly four-in-ten women. They have less formal education . Only 12% of the public says what¶s best for a young child is that their mother works full time. 44% say part-time work is ideal and 38% say it¶s best if the mother doesn¶t work at all. the results are strikingly similar: 12% say the ideal situation for mothers with young children is to work full time. Men and women agree that a full-time working mother is not what¶s best for a young child. and 42% say what¶s best is if the mother doesn¶t work at all. When it comes to what¶s best for the mother.

In the 2007 survey. compared with 34% of working moms. This compares with 13% of working moms. . Only 22% think this trend has been good for society. And.and lower household incomes than working mothers. while only 9% of those who don¶t work are black. African American women are more heavily concentrated among working mothers: 18% of mothers who work full or part time are black.000. When asked about the impact the rise in working mothers has had on society. while 37% of at-home moms report an annual household income of less than $30. and 31% say it hasn¶t made much difference. 34% say it has been bad for society and 31% say it hasn¶t had much of an impact. Working mothers are more evenly split on this question: 34% say the trend toward more mothers with young children working has been good for society.2 In addition. 27% of the at-home moms surveyed were Hispanic. at-home moms are more likely than working moms to be Hispanic. only 20% of working moms fall into this income category. Only 21% of at-home moms are college graduates. A plurality of at-home moms (44%) say the increase in working mothers with young children has been bad for society. at-home moms have a more critical view than do working moms.

The reasons women don¶t work are somewhat different from the reasons men don¶t work. In addition. Women who are not working and are not retired are less likely than men to say that being unable to find a job or losing a job are major reasons why they are not working. The Glass Ceiling: Is Family a Factor? . 3%). 43% of at-home moms give themselves either a 9 or a 10. When asked to rate the job they are doing as parents on a scale of 0 to 10 (with 10 being the highest). Moms who work either full time or part time are harder on themselves ² only 33% give themselves a 9 or 10. Only 3% of men who are not employed say this is a major reason they are not working.At-home moms and working moms also differ in their self-evaluations. more than a quarter (27%) say family or childcare responsibilities is a major reason why they are not working. and for women family is a much more important factor. While 34% of women who are not employed say they are not working because they can¶t find a job. Among those who are not working and not retired. women are more than four times as likely as men to say they are not working because their spouse or family doesn¶t want them to work (14% vs. the most important reasons men give for being unemployed are that they¶ve looked and can¶t find a job (51% say this is a ³big reason´) or that they¶ve been laid off or lost their job (37%).

It¶s . so few women have risen to the top ranks of American business and politics. Many respondents also said that women¶s family responsibilities don¶t leave time for running a major corporation. and women are discriminated against in all areas of life including politics (38%). women who are active in party politics are held back by men (43%). 32%). Respondents were asked to evaluate a series of potential reasons why there are not more women in top level business positions and high political offices. according to the public. are the ³old-boy network´ and the fact that women haven¶t had access to corporate America long enough to rise to the top. Other important reasons included that Americans simply aren¶t ready to elect a woman to higher office (51% said this is a major reason). in spite of their growing presence in the labor force.A 2008 Pew Research Center survey explored the reasons why. With regard to business. what¶s holding women back. Women themselves were somewhat more likely than men to say this is a major reason why so few top level business positions are held by women (37% vs. When asked why there are not more women in high political offices. more than a quarter of the public (27%) said a major reason for this is that women¶s responsibilities to family don¶t leave time for politics.

By comparison.worth noting that for both business and politics. 26% of mothers who don¶t work outside of the home said they always feel rushed as did 25% of working fathers. toughness or experience were major reasons why more women haven¶t gotten ahead in these fields. . respondents were asked how they felt about their time² did they always feel rushed. Four-in-ten working mothers with children under age 18 said they always feel rushed. and another 52% said they sometimes feel rushed. Whether mothers worked part time or full time didn¶t make a difference: 41% of moms who work full time and 40% of those who work part time said they are constantly feeling rushed. very few people said that a lack of ability. 24% of the public said they always feel rushed. Overall. But working mothers¶ lives are much more harried than the average American¶s. The Day-to-Day Lives of Working Moms and Dads What sort of impact does working and raising a family have on the day-to-day lives of mothers? And do working fathers experience the same stresses and strains? One thing is quite clear ² working mothers feel rushed. In a 2005 Pew Research Center survey. only sometimes feel rushed or almost never feel rushed.

The good news for working moms is that.The 2008 Pew Research Center survey cited above included a question about the level of stress people experience in their daily lives. In fact. For mothers. This compares with only 14% of working mothers. working outside the home does not seem to be correlated with stress. Another 21% rarely experience stress and 5% say they never do. Working fathers are less likely than working mothers to feel stressed. Women report experiencing somewhat more stress than men. they are just as happy overall as at-home moms and . Relatively few Americans are immune from stress. Mothers who stay at home are about as likely to say they frequently feel stressed as those who work full or part time. although their lives may be chaotic. 26% of fathers who work either full or part time and have children under age 18 say they rarely or never feel stressed. Nearly three quarters say they experience stress sometimes (36%) or frequently (36%). and mothers have higher stress levels than fathers.

As women have gone into the labor force in greater numbers. the demands of a tighter labor market may make it even more difficult for women to find jobs that allow for part-time work or flexible schedules. . Working fathers are also juggling more these days than they did in the past. and 63% are very satisfied with their family life vs.3 For their part. 85% of moms who are married. Working women are left to wrestle with the competing demands of work and family.working dads. An equal proportion of at-home moms said they were very happy. 75% of at-home moms). Where Do We Go from Here? Undoubtedly working mothers will continue to juggle their many responsibilities at work and at home. One group of women who are less happy and less satisfied with their family lives is single moms with children under age 18. and 38% of working dads said the same. however they still bear much more of the burden for both housework and child care than do fathers. Similarly. In the 2008 Pew Research Center survey. 36% of working moms said they were very happy with their lives. Research shows that married fathers now spend roughly twice as much time caring for children and doing housework as they did in the 1960s. Women are now spending less time on housework than they were in the 1960s. Most would prefer to work part time but the reality is that relatively few actually have the opportunity to do so. working moms are just as likely as moms who don¶t work outside the home to say they are very satisfied with their family life (78% of working moms vs. most fathers are content to work full time and few seem to feel conflicted over their competing roles at work and at home. men have assumed more responsibilities at home. Only 27% say they are very happy compared with 41% of married moms. Furthermore.

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