Lisa Scherzer

Women: The More Ambitious Sex?

More women are achieving primary breadwinner status among U.S. households, as our colleagues at Daily Ticker reported this week. So it follows that the younger generation of women are placing a higher priority on work than men.

In what the Pew Research Center calls a gender reversal, more young women than men say a high-paying career is a top life priority, according to survey findings released Thursday. Two-thirds (66%) of women ages 18 to 34 rated career high on their list of life priorities, compared with 59% of young men. In 1997, 56% of young women and 58% of men felt the same way.

Women's increased focus on career is reflected in their education rates as well. Women now surpass men in college enrollment and graduation. 36% of women ages 25 to 29 hold a bachelor's degree, compared with just 28% of men in the same age group, says Pew Research.

Despite their educational and career strides, it's the same unequal story when it comes to pay. In 2010 full-time or salaried women workers had weekly earnings of $669, while their male counterparts pulled in $829 a week. However, today's young workers have it better than their older counterparts. Among all workers ages 16 to 34, women's earnings are more than 80% of men's, but that number drops to 80% or less for women 35 to 64, according to the survey.

Women might be increasingly career-driven, but it's not at the expense of marriage and family — they still want to have it all. The share of women 18 to 34 for whom having a successful marriage is important has risen to 37% -- up nine percentage points from 28% in 1997. For young men, on the other hand, that number dropped — from 35% in 1997 to 29% now. According to the survey, both men and women rank parenting high on the list of priorities.

These Gen Y-ers might view marriage and family as important, but the overall trend shows that people are marrying and having children later. Partly because 20-somethings, burdened with student debt and poor employment prospects, have fared poorly in the recent financial crisis. Will their dual priorities — of career and family — merely be delayed compared with their parents' generation? Or do they have unrealistic expectations?

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