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Getting Ahead



It is often said that women who are employed lack ambition and the drive to succeed in business or the professions which men have. Comparisons of relative earnings and of occupational status of men and women show a superior achievement for men, as might be expected. Feminists of an earlier era were wont to make much of this fact, but few women seem concerned about it today. Most of them appear to believe that they have as much occupational outlet as they need. They are concerned, however, about certain aspects of the employment situation which affect them directly and for which the remedy is obvious, such as working conditions and hours, equal pay for equal work and other practical matters. Many of these issues are common to all employed persons, however, and must obviously be met by concerted action and by legislation. Legislation is apparently more necessary for women than for other employed groups because of the difficulty of inducing women to join organizations or to participate in group action. In many cases they regard their work as temporary in nature and in other cases they have heavy responsibilities at home which leave them neither the time nor the inclination for organizational work. But as our social consciousness grows and with it the sense of social responsibility, it may be possible that women, as well as men, will be able to define success more in terms of the groups of which they are a part and less in strictly personal terms. At any rate there appears to be an in-creasing number of women with a consciousness of the general welfare and a willingness to subordinate their personal aims to its promotion.

It is evident that the long period of waiting for marriage which in other eras inhibited so many women in their efforts to find suitable work or to prepare themselves for business and the professions is less common today. The average girl expects to work after leaving school and this occupational experience usually stands in her in good stead if she marries or if she remains single. The American girl can interrupt her working career to get married with satisfaction at achieving her matrimonial goal or she can continue to work with satisfaction in achieving her occupational goal. This acceptance of a working experience as a normal aspect of life has eliminated from view that embarrassing spectacle of our social life, the middle class girl with "hope too long delayed," who waited wistfully but conspicuously, with her hope chest full to overflowing with household linens and other paraphernalia of a genteel existence, for a husband to come and provide her a home and a living.

While conspicuous waiting has gone, there remains still a form of occupational slacking which is its more subtle equivalent and which hinders the success and happiness of some single women. For a small minority of young single women refuse to enter zestfully and happily into their work experience because they fear to Iessen their chances of marriage by appearing too interested in their work or their future prospects. They prefer to treat their working experience, how-ever necessary it may be to their livelihood, as an incident of minor importance in daily life. Clever girls are quite capable of making the most of their work experience and of keeping their occupational horizons bright while at the same time cultivating the social field with the desired success. But some girls lack either the insight or the ability to do this and they "mark time" by entering as little as they can into their work in the belief that they will in this way promote their social prospects. In what proportion they succeed we have no means of knowing but among the older single women whom we saw there was an appreciable minority who were still following this policy of marking time at their jobs, and who were for the most part unhappy, discontented women. Such situations give rise to the question as to whether the grudging, unwilling attitude developed toward work does not carry over into other areas and affect personal and social adjustment unfavorably too.



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