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Men still more likely to work full-time, study finds

It turns out that even among graduates from elite instutitions like Harvard Business School, a woman’s role is still more often in the home than those of her male classmates.

Robin J. Ely, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, presented her study on Crimson alumnae Thursday at a two-day 50th anniversary celebration of women’s inclusion at Harvard Business School. The study surveyed some 6,500 graduates, both male and female, to better understand their views, professional experiences, and choices.

Ely and her team are still analyzing the data. S o far, the survey results indicate that Harvard women are less likely to be full-time workers than men and more likely to be stay-at-home parents.


“We learned that many of the women leave HBS and expect to have a more egalitarian relationship with their partner than they end up having,” she said.

In fact, full-time fathers didn’t register a percentage point in any age category in the survey. Men were more likely to work full-time in every age category.

The greatest employment differences were seen among Generation X graduates, ages 31 to 47, where 95 percent of men worked full time compared with 74 percent of women.

The study also found that Harvard Business alumnae don’t take the choice to step out of the work force and raise children lightly.

“These decisions are hard for these women,” she said. “They don’t go to Harvard Business School and plan to not have careers.”

Ely’s study found that 10 percent of Generation X and baby boomer female graduates, ages 48 to 66, are stay-at-home mothers. Among those parents, 86 percent intended to return to work.

Most alumnae surveyed who stopped working at one point to raise children returned to paid employment within a couple of years.

Ely said she hoped an analysis of the Harvard study “can be used to educate our students to set themselves up to get more of what they want, which for most of them is to have a great meaningful career, a great partnership, and, for some, children. A lot of people end up not being able to combine those things.”


Crimson men and women who participated in the survey also shared ideas on the two most important factors in career advancement: effective leadership skills and spousal support.

Yet overall, men placed less importance on support — from spouses, supervisors, or in a work environment in generalthan women.

Ely said unsupportive work environments and societal pressures make it difficult for mothers to remain in the work force.

“When you also have the culture whispering in the other ear that you shouldn’t be working anyway, it’s very hard to stay,” she said.

The initial survey was limited to about 20 minutes worth of questions. A second survey will be distributed to the same alumni to gather a more detailed picture of their lives.