When I graduated with my MBA in 1984, some firms interviewed all of the women before the first man. One of my good female friends had a job offer the day before my first interview for the same job at the same firm. Three of my female friends ended up getting the real plum jobs at great firms. They were smart and deserved the success.
But within two years, all three had “downshifted” and taken what they considered more fulfilling and less stressful jobs. The same people who praised them for landing the tough jobs praised them for being smart enough to walk away from them.
This leads to my take on inequality. Men still have fewer options when it comes to “downshifting”. If a man leaves a good paying, high profile job, he does not get praised for being smart enough to “have a life.” Rather, he is castigated for being a bit of a deadbeat, not ambitious … I am sure that everyone here can supply the terms.
Life on the fast track is often unpleasant. You have to make decisions that trade off your current happiness – and maybe that of people you love – for the promise of … something. The incentive to keep running takes the carrot of that promise, but also the stick of shame if you slow down or leave the track altogether. This is where we still treat men and women differently. Maybe getting off that fast track is good decision, but after taking a more holistic approach to life, it churlish to complain that others have passed you by on the track you have abandoned.