What Dutch Women Know That We Don't

Writing at the Institute for Family Studies blog, Susan Pinker makes a striking observation about Dutch women: the overwhelming majority choose to work part time. Of those women, many do not even have children. In contrast to the feminist myth that a woman must define herself by her career, Dutch women take a broader view on quality of life that includes making time for family, friends, and fulfilling pursuits.

This led Pinker to ask if, when contemplating the age-old question of "what women want," we should be looking at more than “male-typical” factors like salary and job title. It’s a notion that should send shock waves through the American feminist community and rightfully so. Pinker’s post is nothing short of a wake-up call to rethink 21st century western womanhood:

The assumption that women would always choose what men choose—if it weren't for the social and cultural forces holding them back—is a presumption I question in  The Sexual Paradox. Nine years after its publication and 50 years after the sexual revolution of the 1970s, I'm wondering what has changed. Do we still expect the majority of women to adopt male-determined goals as their own? Or do most women in industrialized nations have something else in mind when they make life decisions?

When you take into account factors ranging from personal happiness to the health and well-being of children and family members, you begin to get a better understanding of how women think and what they value. Ironically, nowhere is this more obvious than in the tech sector. Silicon Valley, with its well-documented workaholism, overwhelmingly employs more men than women. Pinker proposes that this has less to do with a woman’s math skills and more to do with how she values her quality of life. Women simply don’t want to sacrifice themselves to the point of suicide in order to feel fulfilled.

So, why do we keep pushing young girls into STEM professions? Could this push and subsequent academic pressures be why a growing number of young girls are being diagnosed with and medicated for depression and anxiety?

It is especially important to note the research Pinker cites regarding the career choices of gifted men and women. Tracked over a 40-year time span, both groups pursued successful careers. Gifted men often wound up in STEM fields, taking on the role of CEO in the IT world. Gifted women often chose caring or advocacy professions in medicine or law. Interestingly, gifted men spent 11 more hours at work per week than did gifted women, even though both groups worked full time. And despite their career successes, 30% of gifted women “wanted to work less than full time” at their ideal job. Educators and parents alike would be wise to note that even the most brilliant girl in class is still biologically driven to value more than career success.