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Gen Y Women More Ambitious Than Gen Y Men

If you have noticed lately that you know precisely 7 percent more ambitious girls than guys (yes, right?), now there’s a study to back you up. On Thursday the Pew Research Center released its findings from a survey that asked men and women to rank various life priorities, including career, marriage, and parenting. Of women ages 18 to 34, 66 percent said that success and a high-paying job were very important or among the most important things in life. This figure is up 10 percent since 1997, when 56 percent of women in the same age range ranked a meaningful career high on their list.

The results, based on two surveys from 2010 and 2011, represent a significant reversal in traditional gender roles, the Pew report notes. In 1997—when the pool of young workers was populated by Gen Xers—the numbers of ambitious men and women were roughly equal: men came in at 58 percent, just two points above women. And while a greater proportion of today’s young women place a high value on career success, the proportion of young men who say the same has remained almost flat since 1997, with an increase of just 1 percent.

But the upswing in the number of women with significant career ambitions does not come at the expense of future plans to marry and have a family. Young women also care more about pairing up than they did in 1997, when 28 percent said marriage is one of their most important priorities. In 2010/2011, that number increased to 37 percent. Meanwhile, the proportion of young men who placed a high value on marriage dropped, from 35 percent in 1997 to 29 percent in 2010/2011.

Is our increased commitment to both a great career and a satisfying family life a sign that we are setting ourselves up to be just as stretched—if not more so—than the women today who are already juggling so much? In 2009 report, also from Pew, 40 percent of working moms say they constantly feel rushed, compared with a quarter of at-home mothers and working dads.

And yet: another way of saying that young women care more about cultivating a satisfying career and marriage is to say that young men care less. The Pew report contributes one more data point to Hanna Rosin’s argument that the end of men is nigh. In that hyperbolically titled yet influential feature for The Atlantic, Rosin proposed that the new economy may just be more advantageous to women:

Earlier this year [2010], for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation’s jobs. The working class, which has long defined our notions of masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the home and women making all the decisions. Women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women. Indeed, the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.
The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominantly male.
Come September, when Rosin’s book on the subject will be released, men will meet their end a second time (and at greater length, we imagine). For now, we’ll just note that according to Pew, the importance of a fruitful career is lower for both women and men in middle and older age: 42 and 43 percent of women and men, respectively, in the 35–64 bracket place a high value on success and a high-paying job (though the women’s figure is still up significantly from 26 percent in 1997).

So maybe what’s coming is just the end of everyone over 34, which, hey, the premiere of Girls is already preparing us for.