Never before had I realized the underlying sexism that follows around a woman who is ambitious. Although my family supports me in whatever path I choose, I have received many underhanded comments from the other females in my family about the fact that I am single and not ready to settle down. My grandmother keeps telling me that I will find "the one" although I am not particularly looking to find "the one" at the moment. Despite the fact that I am only twenty-two, people constantly ask me about when I plan on getting married and having children. In fact, when I told my mother that I certainly did not want those anytime in the next several years, she was shocked.
My friends have faced this as well. My one friend was in a serious relationship with a man for over a year. He graduated and moved to Denver while she continued to finish her studies. They ended up breaking up almost a year ago because he kept pressuring her to marry him and settle down with him in Denver, despite her telling him she wasn't ready and she wanted to finish school and have a stable career first. She was nineteen years old. For refusing to marry him, she became a "heartless bitch" that was shunned by him and all of his friends.
This has become a serious problem for all of us women who are still young and career-oriented. No matter how successful we are, there is always that lingering doubt of "Should I be settling down? Is it bad that I am alone?" I hate the way this standard in society has made me feel. I am happy to be single, but society also makes us feel guilty us for not having boyfriends or husbands or children by a certain age. Whenever my friends and I get together for "singles night" we celebrate our lack of attachment, but it almost feels like we have to justify being single.
This is certainly a double standard in society. We applaud men who are ambitious and career-oriented without ever questioning their commitment to their significant others or their children. Research I have done on this topic shows that men are more likely to get promotions and tenure-track positions regardless if they have children or not. However, women that we interviewed in my research were hesitant to have children, knowing that this could drastically affect their careers. When women have children, they are far less likely to receive the promotions and positions that men do. Yet, if a woman is single and works hard for her job, she is often referred to as a "workaholic," "bitch," or sometimes more derogatory words. I have experienced all of those, from coworkers to romantic partners.
This attitude is something that desperately needs to change, both from men and other women. We cannot help women to progress in the workforce if we try to undermine their work and make them feel like they are not successful until they have married and had children. Some women do derive success from this, and that is absolutely fine. But women should not have to feel shame from receiving their happiness from work, as it has always been acceptable for men to do so. Although I believe attitudes are changing as we strive to reach equality in the workplace, there is still much to be done.