Man shortage leads less attractive women to career success: studyMonday, May 07, 2012
By NADINE WILSON All Woman writer firstname.lastname@example.org
GONE are the days when women saw their primary function as staying home taking care of babies and playing maid to their men. More and more women are becoming the movers and shakers of society as they climb the ladders of academic and career success.
But one study, in its efforts to determine the reason for this phenomenon, is suggesting that women are seeking briefcases over babies simply because of the scarcity of men. And, the study said, there is one type of woman doing that: the less physically attractive woman.
The study, Sex Ratio and Women's Career Choice: Does a Scarcity of Men Lead Women to Choose Briefcase Over Baby? published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, hinted that the women who were more career minded took that path because of their inability to snag long-term mates based on their looks.
The study found that sex ratio affects women's family planning and career choices and that a scarcity of men led women to seek high-paying careers and to delay starting a family.
"Sex ratios involving a scarcity of men led women to seek lucrative careers because of the difficulty women have in finding an investing, long-term mate under such circumstances," the study read.
"Accordingly, this low-male sex ratio produced the strongest desire for lucrative careers in women who are least able to secure a mate — a person's ability to attract mates is directly related to their 'mate value'. Higher mate-value women [eg women who are more physically attractive] have more mating opportunities and are better at securing desirable mates. When men are scarce, only the most desirable women are able to secure long-term, investing male partners. Because women who are less desirable to men are less likely to secure a long-term mate when men are scarce, such women must independently support themselves."
It said "a scarcity of men leads low mate-value women to seek careers, and specifically, to seek careers that offer higher pay".
"Because such women should have a more difficult time attracting a desirable mate, they should be more likely to pursue lucrative careers as a way to independently secure material resources that can then be invested in themselves and their family," the study said.
The fact that women make up the bulk of Jamaica's tertiary institutions has long been a concern for policy makers. According to counselling psychologist and founder of The Job Bank, Dr Leahcim Semaj, it becomes difficult for some of these women to find men who match their qualifications when it comes time to start a family.
"As she gets older, the issue of devoting more of her time to work sometimes leads to not being able to find a man and not being able to find a man that meets her approved frame of reference," he said.
"So rather than being involved with persons below what you are comfortable with, you'll put more of your effort into your career and into your job, so there is evidence of that," he noted.
But financial analyst Karen Fitz-Ritson believes women are becoming more career-focused simply because more opportunities are being opened up to them that did not exist in the past. She pointed to pioneers such as Gloria Steinem, whose iconic gesture of the burning of the bra in the 1960s encouraged more women to pursue their desired career choices.
"I cannot speak to the fact that pursuing higher learning or professional training is the substitute for engaging in a relationship because I have no empirical evidence to this. But I can speak to the fact that in order to stay in the game, regardless of gender, one has to continuously qualify themselves and upgrade their skill sets if they are going to survive in this volatile and complex global environment," she said.
Although she noted that more females were found in tertiary institutions, Fitz-Ritson does not believe this necessarily presented a challenge to women finding suitable mates.
"There are many other modes of professional training where men participate — the world has expanded beyond the traditional modalities of education. And universities may not offer the career paths they want to pursue," she pointed out.
Fitz-Ritson believes that career-oriented women were also now delaying having families because of the change in perception of success. Whereas before, success was considered being married with children, it now includes being independent and stable.
Added to this too, she believes, is the fact that the value system has changed over the years, resulting in the development of the "instant gratification" generation. Women are no longer content to sit at home and wait for a man to bring home the bacon. Over time they have to become more career driven and independent so they can finance themselves.
"I often have to deal with female students in my institution who have this mental checklist in their heads of what they should achieve by certain ages and it is driving them crazy when they have not met the targets at the specific period," she said.
Dr Semaj was, however, in agreement with the study that women who were more physically attractive were oftentimes the ones who had the least interest in going after careers.
"The more attractive the woman is, she is going to feel that she has more currency on the mating game, so that she can now stake more of her claim," he said.
"She is going to use her looks, her beauty, to get ahead in life. If you notice there is a correlation where achieving men marry attractive women," he said.
It was Fitz-Ritson's view that desirability is not determined by a woman's physical attributes only. It was upon this basis that she disagreed with the study.
"If you look at the cross section of the 'Generation Y' professionals of both sexes, they are quite pretty and spend a lot of time and care on their physical attributes. I am very impressed about that aspect — but of course what is between the ears is of importance," she said.
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