Harvard WomenMillennials, generally described as the generation born between the early 1980’s to the early 2000’s, have very liberal ideas about adult role, including approving of working women, abortion, pre-marital sex, legal marijuana, and gay marriage.  They reject strongly differentiated gender roles in marriage.

However, a new study of Harvard Business School alumni found that the real lives of Harvard women graduates did not match their reported expectations about their work and family lives.  That is, while  women and men have about equal expectations about how their careers and home life will go, the actual lives of the women in the study did not live up to those expectations.

For example, young women in this study expect that their progressive values about caring for children will be reflected in their own live.  However, young men in the study were much more likely to expect a more traditional outcome, women being more responsible for caring for children.

What is interesting about this study is that it asked the survey takes to report on the gender dynamics of their own lives, not about gender equality in the abstract.  These are bright, well-educated women and men who once they marry and have children fall back into traditional roles.  How does this happen?

The practical impact of childbearing and childrearing continues to have greater consequences for women than for men, even for those couples who hold egalitarian ideologies.  Trying to combine work and family leads many women to prefer giving up their career aspirations because of the difficulty of managing both along with traditional ideologies about good mothering.  For the most part, husbands nowadays are typically supportive of their wives decisions, but seldom do husbands offer to sacrifice their own work commitments.  Even if women go to work after the children are in school, their husband’s earning power has so outstripped theirs that they come to think of their salary as “extra” money rather than as being a major contribution to the family.ID-10085433 (2)


  • Male and female graduates have the same goals: meaningful, satisfying work (with opportunities for career growth) and fulfilling personal lives
  • Among full-time workers, men were significantly more likely to be in senior management positions
  • Fewer women than men reported being satisfied with careers
  • Different expectations in marriages leads to diverging career paths
  • 75% of men (ages 32 to 67) expected careers to take precedence over wives’ careers and it turned out to be true
  • Half of corresponding women expected to handle majority of child care, three fourths ended up doing so
  • One female graduate, mother of two and founder and chief exec of a company, reported her career and home life matched her expectations. She was upfront about her career goals, she and her husband “are on the same page”, and they “actively manage” the balancing of jobs and child care.

Click on thumbnails below for more info about the Harvard Study…..

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Ely, R.J., Stone, P. and Ammerman, C. 2014). Re-thinking what you know about high-achieving women.  Harvard Business Review. December. (

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