See Jane Win: The Rimm Report on How 1,000 Girls Became Successful Womenby Sylvia B. Rimm, Ilonna Jane Rimm, Sara Rimm-Kaufman
Here's an essential Miniature Edition™ to help parents raise happy, successful daughters. It distills the wisdom and insight of the New York Times bestselling See Jane Win, based on a three-year survey of a thousand women of achievement who reflect on their upbringing. Noted child psychologist and NBC Today correspondent Dr. Sylvia Rimm,/i>/i>/i>
Here's an essential Miniature Edition™ to help parents raise happy, successful daughters. It distills the wisdom and insight of the New York Times bestselling See Jane Win, based on a three-year survey of a thousand women of achievement who reflect on their upbringing. Noted child psychologist and NBC Today correspondent Dr. Sylvia Rimm, who conducted the research with the help of her own daughters, emphasizes self-esteem, education, and healthy competition to help young women achieve fulfillment and success.
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Twenty Guidelines for Raising
Here are the twenty most important findings of our research and the resulting guidelines for raising girls for success.
Research Finding #1
Both the American dream and the feminist dream are alive and well for the successful women who participated in our study. They have outperformed both their mothers and fathers in their educational attainments. Although less than a third of their mothers and less than half of their fathers completed college, almost all of the women had at least college degrees. A third had master's degrees, and another third had doctorates in the arts and sciences or a professional degree in medicine or law. The women in our study were not only successful but happy in their families and social relationships.
GUIDELINE #1 Set high educational expectations for your daughters. Expect them to complete college and beyond, whether or not you did. Discuss careers with them, and expect them to have careers. Teach them that educational attainment is of the highest priority.
Research Finding #2
About 70 percent of the women believed that both their parents had high expectations for them. More than a third of the women indicated they felt pressure from parents, teachers, peers, and themselves, although for the most part they liked the pressure or at least didn't seem to mind it.
GUIDELINE #2 Don't be too quickto back off if your daughters have to cope with some pressure. It's all part of learning resilience. Expect much from your daughters, and they will expect much of themselves. Coach them for success. Expectations are much more effective if both parents agree (whether or not they're married to each other). If you can't agree, having one parent who sets high expectations is much better than neither doing so. However, too much pressure can cause serious problems. Don't set unrealistically high expectations. If your daughter is experiencing symptoms of pressure, help her to make decisions about how to manage her time better or which activities to eliminate. If she reports too much pressure or begins to show physical symptoms, get professional help.
Research Finding #3
Although most of the successful women in the study were highly intelligent according to various measures, many described themselves as above average or even average in intellectual abilities. Most of the women invested considerable time in study and homework while in school. Motivation seemed at least as critical as ability.
GUIDELINE #3 Help your daughters to understand that they don't need to be the smartest to feel smart, but assure them that you believe they are intelligent and that "airheads" don't make it but "brains" do. Studying does pay off. Help them to develop good study habits. Even perfectionism, if not too extreme, can lead to production and achievement. Assure your daughters that they won't wear their IQ score on their foreheads, and for the most part, they should not consider their IQ score a limitation as long as they are interested, motivated, and willing to persevere.
Research Finding #4
In choosing words to describe themselves as they were growing up, the women of the study chose "smart," "hard worker," and "independent" most often. Those descriptors were also chosen most by the women to describe their perceptions of how others saw them. "Happy," "mature," "adultlike," "creative," and "good little girl" were also mentioned frequently. There were various descriptors used by women in some careers, but "smart" and "hardworking" were constants for all careers.
GUIDELINE #4 View your daughters as intelligent, good thinkers, and problem solvers. Value work. Be positive about your own work. Have family work projects. A work ethic and a love of accomplishment underlie motivation. Doing chores around the house, baby-sitting, running small businesses (such as lemonade stands), tutoring or teaching others, and working on creative projects will all build a sense of personal competence.
Research Finding #5
Many successful women described themselves as "sensitive," "kind," "shy," "emotional," "perfectionistic," and "self-critical." Very few used terms such as "troublemaker," "manipulative," "problem child," "rebellious," or even "fashion leader."
GUIDELINE #5 Characteristics that are gender-stereotyped as female characteristics don't necessarily interfere with success. Assertiveness can be learned. On the other hand, if your daughter is having behavior or learning problems in school, take it seriously. Get the kind of professional assistance that will help her view herself as hardworking, smart, and independent.
Research Finding #6
Most of the successful women in our study, 79 percent, were educated in public schools; 16 percent attended parochial schools, and 5 percent went to independent schools. Comparable figures for the general population are 89 percent in public schools, 9 percent in parochial schools, and 2 percent in independent schools. Approximately twice as many of our successful women attended parochial and independent schools as do children in the overall population.
Attendance at same-gender schools and colleges was viewed favorably and positively by the women who attended those schools. Ten percent of the women attended all-female high schools. Thirteen percent attended women's colleges. Approximately 20 percent of the successful women admitted that boys and social life adversely affected their seriousness about school and learning during their middle- and high-school years. Specific teachers were frequently mentioned by these women as inspiring regardless of whether they attended public or private schools.
GUIDELINE #6 Your daughters can be successful at public schools; however, there may be some advantages to parochial, independent, and all-girls schools. Consider the quality of the particular school, and carefully review your own economic priorities as well as your daughters' interests and needs when planning for your daughters' educational opportunities. The middle-school and high-school years may be a more important time than the elementary years to choose a special school if finances are limited. On the other hand, it may not be worth a financial sacrifice if your daughters are doing well at good public schools. Search for schools with dedicated and inspiring teachers. They may make a great difference for your daughters.
Research Finding #7
The best academic subjects of these women as early as elementary school may have at least partially predicted many of their career directions. (Because this is a retrospective study, their memories may be prejudiced by their current interests.) The women in medicine, science, and the allied health professions were best at science. Best in math were the physicians, scientists, and executives in business. More women in media were best at reading and English, and many loved writing and were fascinated with the use of words. More women in government and law performed best in social studies and history. The women's strengths became more pronounced as they matured. The overall best subject for the total group of women was English, which should delight English teachers and reaffirm findings that women tend to have strong verbal skills. It's unlikely we'd find that a best subject among many successful men.
GUIDELINE #7 Encourage your daughters to develop math and science skills. Counting, measuring, and experimenting can begin during the preschool years. Encourage girls to play with toys that involve spatial relationships, such as puzzles and blocks. The future will offer your daughters more opportunities if they are comfortable with math.
Reading is a very high priority. Begin reading to your daughters during infancy. Don't worry if your daughter is a bookworm. There were many bookworms among the women of the study in every successful career category. Read to and with your daughters, and let them see you enjoy reading. Encourage their love of history and social studies as well. Girls who are truly interested in learning have a better chance of success.
Research Finding #8
Middle-school math decline is real for many women, even for some successful women. Although as many women indicated that confidence in math and science improved as indicated it declined, excellent math and science grades provided the threshold for the women who entered scientific professions. Thus, if they were not good at math, doors to most science careers were closed. Math was also important for the women in business. Also, the percentage of women who took advanced math and science courses was directly related to the numbers that went into careers that required math and science. The most important reason given by women for taking advanced courses was their personal interest. The second and third reasons were teacher and parent advice.
GUIDELINE #8 Whether you liked or feared math, encourage your daughters to enjoy the subject. Your daughters will have more choices if they conquer advanced math. If they're struggling, arrange for tutoring. Encourage them to take advanced courses even if it means getting a B or C rather than the A they and you hoped for. They may need you to say things like "We admire the way you take on challenges" or "We're glad you're taking the hard courses." Don't hesitate to advise your daughters to take advanced math, even if it was difficult for you. If possible, encourage their teachers to offer the same advice. If you have a choice, find a school that encourages girls to take math and science. All-girls schools often take pride in their math and science emphasis. Encourage your public schools to offer all-girls math and science classes.
On the other hand, if after real effort, your daughters truly have no interest in math, there are many verbal and creative careers available to them (traditional and nontraditional) despite the fact that some of these careers are very competitive or less financially satisfying.
Research Finding #9
A quarter of the women skipped subjects and 15 percent skipped grades during elementary and secondary school. These percentages varied by career group. Grade and subject skipping seemed to build intellectual self-confidence and may have been important experiences in learning to cope with challenge. Furthermore, the time saved by the skipping and acceleration was valued and reassuring for the women who pursued many years of postgraduate education. There was no indication that grade skipping had an adverse effect on social adjustment.
GUIDELINE #9 If your daughters are not challenged academically, evaluate with professionals the possibility of shortening their education by grade or subject skipping.
Research Finding #10
The successful women in our group talked and read early. The attorneys talked and read earliest of all. The women in the study were very actively involved during childhood and adolescence. Reading was a favorite childhood activity, followed by music and involvement in Girl Scouts. Many women said they were motivated by reading biographies of successful women. Athletics and student government became increasingly important as they moved from elementary to high school. There were three times as many women in sports as in cheerleading during high school. Half the women indicated that spending time alone had been important during their childhood. Most women watched two hours or less of television daily.
GUIDELINE #10 Extracurricular activities are importantmusic, art, dance, Scouts, band, orchestra, chorus, drama, religious groups, and sports. It's worth the effort and time to drive your daughters to meetings and practices. Learning to manage busy schedules teaches girls to handle complexity and ambiguity when they become adults. Teach them organizational and planning skills. However, also insist on some quiet time alone for girls to learn to entertain themselves, cultivate their imaginations, and read. Encourage girls to read about successful women. Television watching should be minimized.
Research Finding #11
Many of our successful women listed "winning in competition" as an important positive experience for them. The third, fourth, and fifth most frequently chosen positive experiences were "award in a talent field," "exhibition of work at school," and "school-elected office." These are all competitive experiences. It seems that winning is motivating. In light of the controversial effort by many schools to eliminate or minimize competition in education, this finding is enlightening. Coping with winning and losing in competition builds resiliency.
GUIDELINE #11 Girls often feel competitive, but they may not admit it. it is almost as if they believe that "good little girls" aren't supposed to be competitive. Furthermore, girls sometimes avoid competitive activities unless they are certain they'll be winners. Encourage them to enter music contests, art shows, debates, science fairs, 4-H exhibits, math competitions, and creative problem-solving meets.
Obviously, your daughters don't have to enter all competitions, but there are many from which they can choose. Winning builds confidence; losing builds character. If girls are to be successful and take risks in a competitive society, they will have to experience both winning and losing, and entering a variety of contests will provide some winning experiences they will never forget as well as some losing ones from which they will undoubtedly benefit without even remembering them.
Research Finding #12
The second most frequently chosen positive experience for women at all developmental levels and in all career groups was travel. Travel with their families was viewed as enriching and adventurous. It also provided family bonding. Independent travel built self-confidence.
GUIDELINE #12 Plan to travel with your family, and encourage your daughters to travel independently when they're old enough. Also, plan twosome trips (mother-daughter, father-daughter) to encourage closeness and bonding; as a bonus, this type of trip is not as complex to plan. Although family travel arrangements can sometimes be difficult, children don't seem to remember the hasslesonly the fun, learning, family togetherness, adventure, and independence.
Research Finding #13
The negative experience most frequently mentioned by the women in the study was "isolation from peers." Although about a quarter of the women considered themselves more social than others their age, by high school 40 percent of the women considered themselves to have been less social than typical. The women of some professions were considerably more social, including those in media, education, government, and business.
The women in all careers tended to have friends during their childhood and adolescence who were achievement-oriented and cared about learning. Although some had a mixture of friends, almost none had mainly negative friends who were rebellious and did not care about success in school.
GUIDELINE #13 Let your daughters know that popularity is not important even if it feels important to them. Be careful to avoid pressuring them to have lots of friends. Set limits. Negative friends may spell trouble for them, although even some of the successful women had negative associations during high school. They should value independence from their peers. If you let your daughters know they can be different, they may not wish to be part of a particular crowd. They can move between groups and may enjoy the freedom to do so. They may even be able to form their own crowd.
Loneliness can be difficult during adolescence. Loneliness can also be difficult for successful executives, scientists, attorneys, writers, and artists. Consider this another important step in teaching resilience. If teens understand that many others experience loneliness, they'll feel less isolated. During lonely times, compensate by planning fun family activities. If having friends is hard for your daughters, allow them to invite a friend along on family outings. On the other hand, if your daughters are already too social, keep family activities for family members only, to build family bonds.
Research Finding #14
Tobacco, alcohol, and drugs were used minimally by our successful women. Many went through college during the late sixties and early seventies, and experimented with drugs. Younger women in the study used more drugs in college than the older women. Older women used more tobacco than the younger women while in college. Alcohol use was similar for both groups. There were very few women who indicated they were substance abusers.
GUIDELINE #14 If you used drugs, drank too much, or smoked when you were young, don't glorify your own experimentations. You survived, but you probably remember some peers who didn't. The drugs of today are more potent than the ones that were available twenty years ago, and there is more research that proves drugs, even marijuana, to be harmful. Tell your daughters about the friends who lost out and whom you lost, and make it clear that you expect them not to smoke, drink illegally, or use illegal drugs. Be realistic. If they experiment, don't give up on them. Don't condone it, or they may take it one step further than is good for them.
Research Finding #15
Although there were some women in every career group who had been rebellious adolescents, most of the women got along well with their parents most of the time. There weren't as many "excellent" ratings for relationships with parents during adolescence as in childhood, but the women mainly considered their relationships with both their parents to be quite good. Relationships with parents were most problematic for those women who became mental health professionals. Also, more of the parents of mental health professionals were not firm disciplinarians. The women attorneys indicated more conflict with their mothers during their high-school years than women in other careers, although that was not the case for them during their elementary or middle-school years.
GUIDELINE #15 You are your daughters' best supporters. Remind them you're their ally and definitely not their enemy. Be a coach, not a judge. Give adolescent girls enough freedom to explore their world, but don't accept rebellion. Set firm limits for your teens and stay as positive as possible. Avoid overpunishment. Encourage them to choose positive activities, and don't take their positive activities away from them as punishments if you're angry or if they've misbehaved. Their positive activities and relationships are the source of their identity building. Don't reward them for good behavior with activities or possessions that you believe will be harmful, even if they'd like to have them.
Research Finding #16
Our study showed that all careers had women of all birth orders. Nonetheless, certain birth orders seemed to give women some advantage in some careers. There were many more firstborns in all of the nontraditional career groups and in education, followed by middle and then youngest children. In the other three career groups traditional to women, there were differences in predominating birth orders. The homemakers' category had the most middle children; the mental health professionals had the most youngest children; and the allied health professional group had as many middle children as oldest.
GUIDELINE #16 While birth order is important, it is not the major factor for success. Be sure that your daughters get leadership opportunities and responsibilities regardless of birth order. Don't baby the youngest daughter. Be sure middle children also receive individual attention. Don't label your children "the scholarly one," "the creative one," "the athlete," and so on. Your daughters can be part of a whole smart family and creative and athletic without having to be the smartest, the most creative, or the best athlete in the family.
Research Finding #17
Although 83 percent of our successful women had mothers who were full-time homemakers when the women were preschoolers, many had careers or returned to school after their children's preschool years. By the women's high-school years, almost two-thirds of their mothers had careers outside of home. More women in traditional occupations had mothers who remained homemakers and didn't continue their education.
Approximately half of the successful women identified with their mothers; a quarter identified with their fathers. Some women identified with their mothers early and then shifted that identification to their fathers or teachers as they matured. Some women identified with other people or no one. Parents were these women's most frequent role models.
GUIDELINE #17 As mothers, don't hesitate about fulfilling your own life dreams by returning to school or entering a career. Your daughters are watching you. If you achieve, they see you as competent and are more likely to believe that they, too, can be competent. As fathers, be supportive of your wives' achievement goals. Your daughters are likely to benefit even more than if your wives stayed at home. You are both important to your daughters' self-confidence.
Research Finding #18
Successful women learned resilience. Sixty-two percent described times in their education when they experienced great difficulty or "hit a wall." Many changed majors, underachieved, or even dropped out of college temporarily. Many more experienced anxiety or depression. The most frequently reported survival skill was perseverance.
GUIDELINE #18 Expect ups and downs for your daughters. Don't assume their setbacks are permanent. Believe in their survival skills, and let them know that they too can persevere. Don't overprotect them because they're girls, difficult as that may feel.
Research Finding #19
The three most common reasons the women of our study chose for recommending their careers to others were that the career was "challenging," "makes a contribution," and is "creative." "Financially satisfying" was not chosen by a large number of women, nor did many women complain about financial dissatisfaction.
GUIDELINE #19 Teach your daughters to value the three C's: challenge, contribution, and creativity. If they are afraid to try new experiences, problem-solve with them on how to be daring and courageous. Role-play the skills they will require for new challenges and experiences.
Making a contribution to society should be valued as important. Society needs the intellect and skills of women and making a positive difference should be valued by families. However, girls should grow up to expect equivalent remuneration to that of men in similar positions rather than settling for inequality. Girls should learn to insist on equal treatment.
Encourage your daughters' creative thinking. If they have unusual ideas, hear them out. Listening and encouraging their creativity does not prevent your setting reasonable limits but will permit them to think beyond compliance.
Research Finding #20
Your daughters may wish to have families and careers. Our successful women struggled and sacrificed to balance the roles of mother, wife, and professional. They sometimes experienced fertility problems related to delayed childbearing. A mothering metamorphosis often took place after the birth of the first child. Many redirected their careers or took time off. As a result, they often coped with penalties in their careers because of their parenting commitments. Women in some careers commented on "glass ceilings" and "sticky floors"; promotion opportunities sometimes seemed unfair. For many others, careers followed alternating sequences (explained further in Chapter 10), and, indeed, their stairways to success were circuitous. In our study the women in the traditional careershomemakers, educators, allied health workers, and mental health professionalsmore frequently rated their family lives as excellent.
GUIDELINE #20 Talk about the wonderful metamorphosis that takes place for new mothers, although your daughters will have to experience it to believe it. Your daughters can have choices in the way they would like to balance or sequence career and family.
If your daughters plan to marry, encourage them to select partners who are willing to share power and parenting responsibilities. If your daughters wish to have careers, they should choose husbands who will respect their choices.
Don't disdain the option of a traditional career. Educators, allied health professionals, mental health professionals, and homemakers make important and creative contributions to our society. If your daughters want to be full-time homemakers, they should make a commitment to volunteer in the community in order to contribute to society and build personal self-confidence. Furthermore, even if homemaking is their first choice, they should be expected to have an education for a career so they'll be prepared for emergencies and self-sufficiency should the need present itself.
Your daughters may wish to postpone or slow career growth in order to devote more time to family, or they may prefer a full commitment to their careers and share the family responsibilities with child-care providers. Give them the freedom to set their own sequences without encumbering them with your own preferences.
Main Childhood Characteristics
of Each Career Category
THE POWER BROKERS
Women were almost entirely absent in the power-broker professions a generation ago. These careers have in common involvement in leadership and assertiveness with people. They include for-profit and not-for-profit business, government, and law.
Included in the women in government were state senators and representatives; judges at state, county, and local levels; government appointees; state attorney generals and assistant attorney generals; health commissioners; and mayors of cities and small communities. The for-profit businesswomen included CEOs, presidents, and vice presidents in small, medium, and large businesses as well as consultants and entrepreneurs who began their own successful businesses. The women in not-for-profit business included administrators of foundations and nonprofit charitable organizations; school district and college deans and other administrators; clergy; and hospital administrators. Most of the attorneys were associates or partners in law firms; a few were professors of law. Many of the women in government were trained as attorneys but were differentiated for this study because they considered their primary career to be in government at this time.
All three of these professional groups included women who were quite social during childhood. The only group that tended to be somewhat less social were the attorneys. The women in government were the most social and the most directly involved in school politics, although almost all of the power-broker women had plenty of school involvement. More of the women in for-profit business and law tended to be rebellious during adolescence, although their relationships with their parents were generally favorable.
Many of the attorneys and women in government were involved in debate and forensics during their school years. Many of the women in for-profit business were entrepreneurs as children. The women in both business groups and government said they were most frequently described by others as "leaders" throughout their school years. Compared to the other three groups, the attorneys were described as "leaders" least often. Instead, "brainy" was much more frequently used to describe their perceptions of how others viewed them. Furthermore, the attorneys tended to rank higher academically in their graduating classes than the women in any of the other three groups, although many women in all four groups were considered to be very smart. The subjects most favored by the women in government, law, and nonprofit business were social studies and history, but mathematics topped the list for the women in for-profit business. Higher percentages of power-broker women in all four categories went to women's colleges and held leadership positions during college.
Although women in all four careers were mainly happy in their careers, the women in for-profit business and law indicated the most financial satisfaction, and those in nonprofit business and government had larger percentages that indicated financial dissatisfaction. Again, home lives were mainly satisfactory for the women of all groups, but fewer of the women in business indicated the "very happy" category for their home satisfaction. The women in for-profit business also had slightly higher divorce rates than those in the other three categories. In contrast, the women attorneys and politicians had more frequent complaints about their jobs taking too much time from their families than the other two groups.
THE HEALERS AND DISCOVERERS
Women are now prominently involved in many areas of science and medicine, although they continue to be a very small minority within some specialties. Only a generation ago, very few women were part of these scientifically oriented professions.
The women in science and medicine share strong backgrounds in science and mathematics that were thresholds to entering their professions. Almost all of the women in these careers have earned advanced degrees, including Ph.D.'s, M.D.'s, and veterinary and dentistry doctoral degrees. A few of the engineers have bachelor's or master's degrees in engineering. Many of these women are involved in the practice of medicine or related specialties. Although more of the physicians are involved in pediatrics and obstetrics than any other specialty, there are also surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, internists, family practitioners, urologists, psychiatrists, cardiologists, radiologists, and dermatologists. Among the researchers are quite a few who are conducting biological, biochemical, or psychological research, and a fair number who are engineers.
The physicians and scientists tended to be somewhat less social as children, particularly in middle and high school, although they were very active in extracurricular activities and often assumed leadership roles in those activities. They had more than typical involvement on sports teams and tended to enjoy other competitive activities as well. They also tended to be more involved in outdoor activities and had high Girl Scout participation. As children, they also participated in music more often than the women in most other careers.
The physicians and scientists enjoyed and mastered science and mathematics from elementary school on, much more so than all other groups. In general, very few of them experienced mathematics, science, or general grade decline during middle or high school. Actually, many of these women increased in academic confidence as they moved through adolescence. They were less distracted by boys during those crucial teen years and had smoother adolescent relationships with their parents than some of the other career groups. Although more of them identified with their mothers than their fathers, when these groups were compared to other career groups, larger percentages identified with their fathers. Many of their mothers returned to school to continue their education while they were growing up.
The women in this category were frequently considered "brainy" by others, althoughas with most of the successful women in our study"smart," "hardworking," and "independent" were very frequent descriptors. "Creative" was mentioned as a somewhat more frequent descriptor about the scientists than the physicians, and "athletic" somewhat more by the physicians than the scientists. More of these women went to parochial schools for their elementary education, and fewer of them went to women's colleges compared to other career groups.
These women were mainly happy with their career choice, although more women in medicine expressed mixed feelings about their career. They indicated more time spent on their job than all other career groups, with more than half indicating they worked over fifty hours per week. Both the physicians and scientists expressed concerns that their careers took too much time from their families. Some scientists commented that their careers involved too much competition. More of the physicians indicated that their job was financially satisfying, and both career groups credited their careers as being challenging and making a contribution. More of the scientists than the physicians liked the creativity involved in their careers.
The women in media and mental health have almost as many differences as similarities, but their emphasis on verbal communication and the fact that these careers are semitraditional bind them together. There have always been some women in media, but traditionally producers, executives, and the most important radio and television news anchors had been men. Presently there are as many women news anchors as men and at least as many if not more women producers. Even some of the technical crew are women. Executive producers continue to be mainly men, but more women are making inroads there as well. Many more women have become involved in print media, although editorial positions in non-women's magazines continue to be held most frequently by men. There remain semipervious glass ceilings, of course, but media is a career area in which women have made early inroads.
The same holds true for the field of mental health. Although social work has always been considered a traditionally female profession, psychologists were rarely women. Now there are probably as many if not more women in the practice of psychology than men. (Psychology researchers were not included among the communicators, but were considered in the research scientist category.)
Most of the mental health professionals were psychologists, although some were social workers or counselors. Among the media women were a great range of radio and television producers, news anchors, and program hosts at the national and local levels. Those involved in print media included editors, reporters, and publicists on local and national levels.
Both these groups of communicating women described themselves as emotional and sensitive during their childhood more frequently than the women in other careers, although their main descriptors also included "smart," "hardworking," and "independent," which were frequent descriptors for women in other career groups as well.
Although the women in both media and mental health professions were similar in their IQ distribution, the mental health professionals achieved better academic performance in school than the media women. The women in media seemed to study less than almost any other group and experienced more decline in grades in middle and high school. Both groups were strong in English and writing, but the mental health professionals also indicated special strength and interest in social studies. Math and science were not strong areas for the women in either group.
Other differences existed between the two career groups. The women in the media group were more typically oldest children, while more of the women in mental health were youngest in birth order. Although they were about equal in social involvement in elementary school, the women in media were more social in high school than the mental health professionals. Both groups indicated that the influence of boys caused grade decline for them in middle school. Both groups took fewer advanced math and science courses in high school, and both showed grade improvement in high school compared to middle school, perhaps related to their lesser enrollment in advanced courses.
Parents of the mental health professionals tended to be less firm with them as they were growing up, and they were actually the most rebellious with their parents during adolescence. Although the media women's parents were similar in firmness to the total group, some of these women had difficulty with their parents during adolescence as well.
Both groups mainly enjoyed their careers but also commented on the financial disappointment and the overcompetitiveness of those careers. While the mental health professions indicated more frequently that "makes a contribution" was a most important reason for recommending their careers, more of the women in media suggested "creative" as their most important reason. More mental health professionals were divorced than media women; however, more media women were single despite the higher divorce rate of their parents. Their younger-than-average age may account for their fewer divorces.
THE ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS
The visual artists and orchestral musicians were grouped together because from early in their childhood they were recognized by others mainly for their talents and their creativity. Although they were also considered smart, hardworking, independent, and "good little girls," their more frequently mentioned traits were related to their specialized talent and interest.
Most of the women in the orchestral musician category played in major symphony orchestras throughout the country. A few played in opera or ballet orchestras or were on the teaching faculties of music departments of universities or music conservatories. These women were eager participants in the study in that we received a fairly immediate response from them to our questionnaire, and many offered to participate in interviews. The visual artists tended to be more difficult to locate and somewhat more reluctant to participate in the study, perhaps because of the necessary criterion that they be happy with their work. Although many defined themselves by their artwork, even those who said they were happy in their work seemed frustrated by issues of financial reward. A great variety of visual arts were represented in the study, including but not limited to photography, sculpture, graphic arts, painting, jewelry, and pottery making.
These particular artistic careers are indeed pioneering professions. There were almost no women to be found in symphony orchestras a generation ago, and if there, they usually sat behind a harp or piano. Some of the women in our study were the first women in their orchestras, and some were the only women for a long time. Some of the women commented that they no longer feel like pioneers because there are presently many more women in orchestras, but others reminded the authors of continued glass ceilings in the area of music. Female orchestral conductors are still rare, although our study does include one, and there are definitely particular instruments that are infrequently played by womenfor example, the brass instruments and bass violins.
There continues to be fewer women than men in the visual and graphic arts. Because it can be so difficult to earn a living through the arts, some of our artists began their careers in other fields until they could afford to work in their beloved arts. Others acknowledged they could afford to be engaged in their sculpting or painting only because they were financially secure through their spouses.
A slightly larger percentage of both musicians and artists were only children. There were more oldest children in both career groups. If not oldest children, more of the visual artists, like the total group, were middle children, and more of the musicians were youngest children. Also, family size tended to be smaller for the musicians. Perhaps birth order and smaller families were advantages for the musicians because of the financial and time investment necessary for the development of their skills.
Although more visual artists identified with their mothers than their fathers, more of these women identified with their fathers compared to the total group. Also compared to the total group, both the visual artists and musicians had larger percentages that identified with someone other than their parents, namely, their music or art teachers.
The musicians were similar to the total group in their developmental milestones, but the visual artists had fewer women who were very early talkers or readers and more that were somewhat late in their verbal skills. The visual artists seemed to struggle more with their schoolwork despite reported high IQ scores. They also reported more middle-school decline in grades and confidence. The orchestral women were mainly excellent students, and very few of them reported drops in grades or in academic confidence. By high school, however, fewer of both groups took advanced math and science classes despite the fact that some of the musicians were very involved in math; some even majored in math in college. By high school both these groups of women were immersed in their specialty areas, practicing for many hours, and teaching their skills to younger children who shared their special talent. Both groups spent considerable time alone as well. Despite that, by high school more of the visual artists socialized with other high-school students, and more of the orchestral women socialized less and found their social opportunities within their orchestra and among music camp comrades.
The women of both groups found English to be their best subject. However, while the musicians often were strong in math and science in middle school, the visual artists tended not to be. By high school artists mentioned writing as their best subject next to English, and orchestral musicians chose foreign language. The orchestral musicians tended to be excellent students and graduated high in their class, while the visual artists tended to do somewhat less well in their academic subjects. Both these groups indicated higher-than-typical frequencies of grade skipping.
Although the artists and musicians often defined themselves by their talents early, more women in both these career groups were hesitant about recommending their careers to other young women. Almost a third of both groups indicated financial disappointment as the reason for not recommending their careers. The legendary "starving artists" are not only legendary. In addition, many of the orchestral women commented on the too-competitive nature of orchestral music as well as the great amount of time taken from their families and relationships. "Challenging," "creative," and "fulfilling" were indicated most frequently as why these women would recommend their careers.
The educators, allied health professionals, and homemakers are described together not only because they establish nurturing others as a priority, but also because those careers enable sufficient time for parenting and family relationships. They are indeed the most traditional careers selected by women, the careers that, from the start, have allowed and invited women to join. Today they remain careers that are primarily filled by women; indeed, men make up only a small minority within them.
Because one of the criteria for inclusion in the study was satisfaction in the career chosen, women who were unhappy with their traditional career were eliminated. Actually, a considerable number of women in the allied health professions submitted questionnaires indicating they were not happy with their careers, and thus they were not included in the tabulation. It's possible that their unhappiness may be related to national changes in the structure of health care provision at this time, but unhappiness was not typical of any other of the selected careers. Also, full-time homemakers who intended to return to a career once their children were in school were not included in this study. Some homemakers did work part time outside their homes and planned a career for after their children were grown.
The educators were mainly teaching at the elementary level, although some were at the middle- and high-school levels. Some taught classes for special groups such as learning-disabled or gifted children. A few taught teachers at the college level. Those respondents at the college level were primarily teachers rather than researchers. College-level education department faculty who had important research responsibilities were classified as scientists.
Among the allied health professionals, respondents were typically registered nurses who functioned in nursing or nursing administration. There were also some physical and occupational therapists. No practical nurses or nursing aides were included in this study. Most of the nurses had bachelor's degrees, and some had master's degrees and doctorates as well.
Although there were a few homemakers whose children were grown, most respondents had very young children at home. A few also held part-time jobs outside the home but considered their homemaking and child-rearing responsibilities primary and expected that to continue despite earlier career training. Some acknowledged that they had little commitment to the career for which they were trained and expected to change their career direction after their children were grown. Others, particularly those trained as educators, expected to return to that career at a future date, sometimes even as their mothers had.
Perhaps to no one's surprise, more of the women in all three groups were married; fewer were single or divorced. More of them reported their family lives as very happy, homemakers most of all. The average ages of two of the groups were slightly different from that of the total group, with the homemakers being younger and the teachers older. The birth order distribution was somewhat different for the three groups. Among the educators, more were oldest children in the family and fewer were youngest children compared to the total group. More of the allied health professionals and homemakers were middle children, and more came from larger families. The large size of their families could explain the large number of middle children.
Highest on the list of this group's perceptions of how they were viewed by others were "smart," "hardworking," and "good little girl," but slightly higher on the list of frequently mentioned descriptors compared to other groups were "happy" and "kind." These women tended to have good relationships with their parents, but better relationships with their mothers than fathers. More of them identified with their mothers than did other career groups, and fewer of their mothers had returned to school or careers while they were growing up. Fewer of these women in traditional careers identified with their fathers compared to other career groups.
Although just as many began as excellent students in elementary school, by middle school fewer described themselves as excellent students and more as only good students. They tended not to study as much by middle and high school and did not rank as high at graduation. They experienced more general grade decline and more math and science decline during middle and high school. The exception was the allied health professional category, which experienced decline in math confidence but not in science. The allied health professionals' best subject tended to be science from the start, and they continued to be strong in it throughout high school. The best subjects for the educators tended to be reading, English, and writing. English and writing ranked first for the homemakers. Fewer women in all three groups took advanced and AP courses in high school, and fewer of them skipped grades or subjects.
Slightly fewer women in all three categories were involved in music, but more of the educators and allied health professionals were involved with sports. The homemakers did considerably more television viewing than the other two groups and, for that matter, any other career category. All three of these career categories tended to be more social than many of the other career groups.
When the nurturers were asked why they recommended their careers, the most frequently mentioned reason for the allied health professionals and educators was "makes a contribution" and the second most frequently mentioned was "challenging." One hundred percent of the homemakers indicated they thought what they were doing was "worthwhile," and the next most frequently mentioned reason was "fulfilling." Educators also frequently indicated that they considered their careers to be "creative."
Meet the Author
Dr. Sylvia Rimm is director of The Family Achievement Clinic at The Cleveland Clinic and a clinical professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She is contributing correspondent to NBC's Today show, Disney's on-line child psychologist for family, host of the national radio show Family Talk with Sylvia Rimm, and author of a syndicated newspaper column on parenting. Dr. Rimm received her master's and doctoral degrees in educational psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is the author of several books, including Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades, Raising Preschoolers, and How to Parent So Children Will Learn. A mother of four, she lives in Cleveland with her husband.
Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman is a research psychologist at the University of Virginia.
Dr. Ilonna Rimm is a pediatric oncology researcher.
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