'Family-Friendly' Occupations for Women Are a Myth

A New York Times story pushed medicine as the ideal career for women. A closer look at data shows "better work-life balance" is actually "choosing careers that require fewer hours" and "still relatively less pay."
Photo by Victor Torres

Every year, articles crop up asking the same question: “Can Women Have It All?” where “all” encompasses a thriving career, healthy happy family and a passionate marriage to someone of equal or greater financial status. There’s hemming and hawing over “choosing the correct career path” or perfecting a work and home-life balance that rivals our notions of disheveled mothers missing their kids’ soccer games in favor of staying late for work. The burden is continuously placed on women to nurture and provide, all while cultivating independence and sense of self. A New York Times article published Wednesday breathlessly reported that finally, women may be getting treated more equally in the field of medicine, only to later undermine itself with its stated facts and prove that, once again, due to structural effects, women can’t have it all, after all, even if they’re doctors.


The article detailed the lives of women working in healthcare, and how the field workers to have more control over their schedules, resulting in a more “family-friendly” life. But later in the piece, data reveals the family-friendliness stems in large part from the fact that women have tended to choose specialties within the medical field that are overall less demanding on their time (for instance, dermatologists or pediatricians work fewer hours and are more likely to be women than orthopedic or cardiovascular surgeons). After controlling for hours worked, specialty, and experience, the pay gap between men and women doctors narrows only slightly, from 67 cents on the dollar to 82. One of the doctors profiled had to move to her hometown so extended family could help with her children on a moment’s notice. In addition, a nanny watches her baby. Even this example of “balance” is cleverly disguised flexibility.

Even with a flexible schedule, more vacation time or the ability to work from home, women working in medicine still don’t get the career opportunities men doWhile going into medicine is presented as finally, maybe a solution to “having it all,” women are undermined once again (just maybe to a slightly lesser extent). Society is structured in such a way that it requires women to make sacrifices that their male counterparts don’t have to consider.In the end women are still making costly compromises at the expense of their mental health, child-rearing or taking a less hands-on approach to their career. Making such weighty concessions in vital aspects of one’s life can hardly be described as having much of anything, let alone “it all”.