Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Career planning options for "The Girl from Galice"

It was a classic conversation between 20-somethings about career planning. On the last work day before starting her senior year at the University of Oregon, we chatted with the young woman running the customer counter at Galice Lodge on Oregon's Rogue River. We asked what she was majoring in and about her plans after graduation. The conversation went on in a pleasant way while she answered the lodge business phone, handled counter customers and checked up on a "shuttle" schedule for Rogue River rafters like we were who want their vehicles driven to a river take-out point 35 miles away over a mountain.
She was obviously bright, enthusiastic and engaged with great multi-tasking skills...the perfect job candidate for a growing dynamic company, right?!.
Finding a real jobShe explained that she would graduate with a double major in English and philosophy and readily admitted that finding a job next year would be difficult. "I can either go to law school or go into a masters program," she said with a bit of a sigh. "So far I'm clear of any student loan debt. That's a good thing."
Then a young male colleague who was listening jumped in with a question.
"Why don't you go into the tech field where you'll make a really good income," he asked. She shrugged and said she loved English, history and philosophy. "My aunt keeps telling me that I should marry someone like that," she said with a laugh.
For me, the conservation confirmed in living color what studies I've read suggest: That young women tend only consider their passions when planning a career while young men tend to think more strategically. Career reward is important for young men but so in the life-long income and what that income means.
I can't help thinking that our girl from Galice will marry and her future spouse will be the big income provider while she "finds" herself. There's still a built-in cultural prejudice that persists in the minds of many young women that a lesser-paying job, a "softer" career is more acceptable. That's despite 40 years of women in the work place, women in management jobs and women with growing success in all sectors of employment.
The gender wage gap persists. Young women from the start continue to make career choices where sexism and discrimination discourage them from moving into higher-paying employment. There's a certain lack of confidence. The ultimate result is a less comfortable retirement.
Our young woman will certainly be successful in whatever she ultimately chooses to do but my prediction is that despite her mature money management skills she will short-change herself when it comes to income. Her male colleague will make less complicated choices: Get an tech sector degree with higher pay from the start, save through a company tax-deferred program and retire well. The consequences of these early career choices have important long-term impacts on family, work and retirement.
For more on the topic:
- 10 Powerful Career Strategies for Women, click here.
- Blaming Women's Choices for the Gender Pay Gap, click here.
- Top 5 Careers with the Smallest Pay Gaps, click here.
- Families Can't Afford the Gender Wage Gap, click here.
- Careers for women, click here.
- Why Some Women Skirt theWage Gap, click here.

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