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哈佛商学院女性毕业生有多少退出了职场?

By Lauren Everitt 2013年04月18日

对哈佛商学院女毕业生的一项最新研究显示,为了照看孩子而放弃全职工作的女性毕业生比例高得惊人。

    2011年,谢莉尔•桑德伯格重返母校哈佛商学院(Harvard Business School)发表演讲。演讲过程中,她对一位MBA学员提问给出的回答,令现场陷入了沉默。桑德伯格说道:“如果当前的趋势继续下去,15年后,现场的女性当中,只有三分之一会从事全职工作,而且,你们基本上都是在给坐在旁边的男生们打工。”

    事实证明,Facebook首席运营官令人沮丧的预测并未成为现实。哈佛商学院于4月4日公布的一项研究显示,X一代(31至47岁)女性毕业生中,仅有10%选择全职在家照看孩子。哈佛商学院所有女性毕业生中,约有70%在从事有偿工作,而从事全职工作的比例为56%。

    社会文化系高级副主任罗宾•伊莉认为:“她有些言过其实了。确实有一些女性毕业生的形象不够积极进取。人们认为她们获得了MBA学位,从男性竞争对手那里获得了一个职位。然后她们离开,结婚生子,从此无所事事。然而,这并非她们的真实经历。”

    同为哈佛商学院校友的桑德伯格,在她最近出版的新书《互依》(Lean In)中也引用了她在两年前提到的数字。这些数字源于一份根据15年前的回访得出的非正式调查结果。而哈佛最新对商学院校友进行了一场最为系统性的研究。这项名为“走出哈佛的生活与领导力”的调查项目,涉及从就业、育儿责任、到对信念和财富的个人满意度等方面,共调查了25,810人,得到了3,786名女性和2,655名男性的响应,回复率为25%。详细结果要在今年晚些时候全部公布,不过,为纪念女性被允许就读两年制MBA学位50周年,哈佛商学院公开了部分与性别有关的调查结果。在当年哈佛首届全日制MBA课程入学登记中,只有8位女性学员。如今,女性学员人数已达40%。

    伊莉表示,她经常听到关于女性将退出职场的惨淡预测。在最近一次拜访北加州的校友活动中,一位女校友说:“真不敢相信,这15年来,只有25%的女性在工作。” 伊莉表示这让她非常震惊。伊莉说道:“实际上,只有10%的女性全职在家照看孩子。而且对于目前在家照看孩子的女性,我们曾询问她们是否计划重新回去工作。只有3%的人表示不会,11%的人尚不确定,而其他86%的人均表示肯定会重返职场。”

    此外,令伊莉吃惊的是,在未从事全职工作的女性校友当中,许多人仍在从事兼职,每周平均工作25个小时,而且大多数(约四分之三)都在参加公益和志愿者活动。X一代女性校友中,13%在从事兼职工作,而男性校友则仅为2%。约63%的女性表示自己定期参加志愿者活动,或是一些有意义的活动。而担任全职妈妈的女性校友则会更多参加公益活动,有67%表示参加过大量的志愿者活动。

    然而,有些人对研究结果可能并没有这么乐观。例如,伊莉的调查发现,来自婴儿潮一代(48至66岁)的女性毕业生中,约有43%已经不再从事全职工作,而同年龄段男性的比例仅为28%。这种差异在X一代女性当中更为明显。属于这个年龄段的女性当中,约有26%已经离开了全职岗位,是同年龄段男性的五倍以上——不过这仍远远低于桑德伯格的预测。研究发现,女性毕业时的孩子越多,越有可能放弃全职工作。有两个或两个以上孩子的X一代女性毕业生中,竟然有37%没有全职工作,相比而言,没有孩子的同年龄段女性放弃全职工作的比例仅有9%。

    在哈佛庆祝女性就读MBA五十周年的活动上,伊莉将她的调查结果介绍给了在场的900位女校友。她表示,为了照顾孩子而决定退出职场的许多女性,对于当初的决定仍耿耿于怀。“在大会上,许多女性对我说:‘我感觉自己退化了。我之所以决定离开我的工作,是因为我觉得自己不堪重负。我感觉心虚。我认为自己再也做不好任何事情了。’”

    这项研究允许受访者添加书面评论,由此发现了许多女性对于工作生活平衡问题的忧虑。其中一位职场妈妈这样写道:“既要做一名聪明能干、有志向的女性,又要承担起照顾孩子的主要责任,这真的非常有挑战性。人们总是告诉我们可以‘拥有一切’。然而,我们必须做出牺牲,而在这种情况下,女性经常感觉她们‘失败了’,或者‘没能发挥潜能’。”

    一位女校友称,在自己生完孩子之后,她的老板因为担心她离职,再也不给她分配有挑战性的工作。“于是,她开始感觉无聊,并问自己:‘我为什么要做这份工作?’”这位校友解释道:“许多机构都认为,女性[在生完孩子之后]希望担任没有什么挑战性的工作。而实际上,我希望接受一些挑战性更强的工作。”最后,这位校友离开了那家公司。

    当被问及哪些因素阻碍了女性的职业发展时,84%的女性受访者承认,阻碍她们发展的是“请假或减少工作时间”。位居第二位的不利因素是“重视家庭高于工作”。有约82%的女性受访者选择了这个原因。

    除了协调妈妈的身份与职业之外,调查还发现,职场上的外部压力给女性带来了额外压力,迫使她们选择其他工作类型,例如兼职和非营利性工作。大多数校友都认为,缺少资深的女性榜样、冷漠的公司文化,以及缺乏支持性环境等,都使女性在职场上举步维艰。

    哈佛的MBA女毕业生们希望从职业中获得更多。67岁以下的女性中,表示对自己的职业成就或职业发展机会满意的不足一半。而男性的情况则相反,大多数男性认为他们的工作非常有意义,并且非常令人满意。

    在研究中,哈佛还询问毕业生们,他们离开哈佛商学院时和现在相比,他们对成功的定义有何不同。一位男性受访者表示,当他从MBA毕业时,他对成功的定义是“成为一位能给市场带来全新创新产品的专家。”

    他如今又是如何定义成功呢?“作为两个孩子的父亲,我不会单纯从职业成就的角度定义成功。对于我而言,成功意味着:家庭收入高于家庭开支。爸爸的努力等于妈妈的努力。帮助其他人好于抱怨其他人。家人的幸福比世界上任何事情都重要。”

    另外一名男性毕业生用三个词总结了自己不同时期对成功的定义:“当他从哈佛商学院毕业时,”伊莉说道,成功就是“钱、钱、钱”。如今,他的成功定义是‘平衡、平衡、平衡。’伊莉认为,对于曾经选择放弃全职工作,如今希望重回职场的女性,公司应该以开放的心态聘用。她引用哈佛商学院50周年庆祝活动启动周期间一位演讲者的话说:“如今,20岁的女性寿命可能达到100岁。所以,在她的孩子达到一定年龄之前,她得放弃工作,但她还有大量的时间可以重返职场。我们真的需要重新审视我们的职业状况。”(财富中文网)

    翻译:刘进龙/汪皓

    When Sheryl Sandberg returned to Harvard Business School for a talk in 2011, her pointed answer to a question from an audience of MBAs drew stunned silence. "If current trends continue," Sandberg said, "15 years from today, about one-third of the women in this audience will be working full-time and almost all of you will be working for the guy you are sitting next to."

    It turns out that the Facebook (FB) COO's gloomy prediction has not materialized. A new study by Harvard Business School published on April 4 shows that only 10% of Generation X alumnae (ages 31 to 47) are at home caring for their children full time. Some 70% of all women alumni from HBS are in the paid workforce, and 56% work full time.

    "She is very far off the mark," says Robin Ely, senior associate dean for culture and community. "There is this image of these women that is not positive. People think they get these MBAs. They have taken a seat from a man and then they go off, get married, and not do anything. But it's just not their experience."

    The number that Sandberg, an HBS alumnus, quoted two years ago and in her recently published book, Lean In, comes from an earlier informal study culled from reunion data some 15 years ago. Harvard's new research is the most systematic study ever done of business school alumnae. Dubbed the "Life and Leadership After HBS" survey, the project addresses everything from employment and child-caring responsibilities to personal satisfaction with faith and wealth. The study includes responses from 3,786 women and 2,655 men, a response rate of 25% from the 25,810 who were surveyed. The full results won't be available until later this year, but the school shared key findings around gender to commemorate the admission of women into the two-year MBA program 50 years ago. Only eight women were enrolled in Harvard's first full-time MBA class. Now, women make up 40% of the student body.

    Ely says she regularly confronts the dismal estimates surrounding women dropping out of the workforce. On a recent alumni visit to northern California, Ely says she was horrified to hear a female alum say "' 'I can't believe that 15 years out, only 25% of the women are working.' But after all is said and done, only 10% of women are at home full-time caring for their kids," says Ely. "And of the people currently at home with kids, we asked if they plan to go back to work. Only 3% said no, 11% were unsure, and 86% said yes."

    Also surprising, adds Ely, was the fact that among women not employed full-time, many were working part-time jobs that average 25 hours in a typical week, and the vast majority (three-fourths) are engaged in pro bono and volunteer efforts. Thirteen percent of Gen X women are working part-time, compared with only 2% of men. Some 63% of the women report regular or significant volunteer commitments. Alumnae who care for children full-time are even more committed to pro bono work, with 67% reporting substantial volunteer activity.

    Some may take a less optimistic view of the study's results, however. Ely's research found, for example, that some 43% of female graduates from the Boomer generation (ages 48-66) are no longer working full-time, compared with only 28% of men. The discrepancy is more pronounced among Gen X women. Some 26% of women in this age group have left the full-time workforce, five times more than their male peers -- but well below Sandberg's estimate. The study found that the more children alumnae have, the more likely they are to nix full-time jobs. A whopping 37% of Gen X women with two or more kids aren't in the full-time workforce, compared with only 9% who have no children.

    Ely, who presented the survey's findings to some 900 female alumnae gathered at Harvard to celebrate the 50th anniversary of women's admission on April 4-5, says that many women who had opted out to care for their children are struggling with their decisions. "A lot of the women I talked to at the summit said, 'I feel that I am atrophying. I made a decision to leave my job because I felt overwhelmed. I felt guilty. I felt like I couldn't be good at anything.'"

    The study, which allowed respondents to add written comments, underlines the angst many women feel over work-life balance issues. "It's a challenge to be a smart, driven, ambitious woman and still be a primary caregiver to one's children," wrote a full-time working mother in the study. "We are taught we can 'have it all.' But there are sacrifices that need to be made, and women often feel as if they are 'failing' or 'not living up to potential' when making those sacrifices."

    One alum explained how, after having a child, her boss no longer wanted to give her challenging assignments for fear she would leave. "She started to get bored and asked herself, 'Why am I doing this?'" The alum explained: "Many organizations think women want less challenging work [after they have a child]. Actually, I was seeking more challenging work on some sort of track." Ultimately, this alum left the company.

    When asked which factors are holding back women from advancing in their careers, 84% of female respondents acknowledged that it was "taking leaves or reducing work hours." The second most cited impediment to career advancement for women? "Prioritizing family over work." Some 82% of the female respondents in the study identified this reason.

    Beyond reconciling motherhood and careers, the survey suggests that external forces in the workplace are putting extra stress on women and steering them toward alternative work options, such as part-time and non-profit work. The majority of alums believe that a dearth of senior female role models, inhospitable corporate cultures, and the lack of supportive environments hold women back in the workplace.

    Harvard's MBA alumnae want much more out of their careers than they are getting. Less than half of the women under the age of 67 report being satisfied with their professional accomplishments or opportunities for career growth. Satisfaction skews the opposite way for men, most of whom agree that their work is meaningful and satisfying.

    In the study, Harvard also asked alums what their definition of success was when they left Harvard Business School versus now. One male respondent said when he graduated with his MBA, his definition of success was "becoming someone who is an expert at bringing new innovations to the marketplace."

    His definition now? "Being married with two kids, I can no longer define success only from a career accomplishment perspective. Success to me is summed up in the following equations: Family money earned is greater than family earning spent. Dad's effort equals mom's effort. Helping others is better than complaining about others. Family happiness is greater than anything else in the world."

    Another male alum summed up his definition of success before and after with three-word answers: "When he left HBS," says Ely, it was 'money, money, money.' His definition of success now is 'balance, balance, balance.'"Ely believes that organizations need to be open to recruiting and hiring women who have opted out of full-time work but now want to resume their careers. "A 20-year-old woman has a life expectancy of 100 today," she says, quoting an earlier speaker who came to Harvard Business School during the kickoff week of the 50th anniversary commemoration. "And so if she steps out of the workforce when her kids are a certain age, she has a huge amount of time for her to come back to work. We really need to reconceive careers."

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