High-powered Jobs Don’t Come Without Consequences

Katie Couric's recent announcement that she is leaving NBC's "Today" to become the next anchor for CBS News is the dawn of a new era at the network and for television news as a whole. The move also shines the spotlight on the issue of women and their role in high-powered jobs.

Beginning this fall, Couric will become the first woman to lead a network evening newscast alone when she begins her five-year deal as anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News.” The third-place CBS hopes Couric’s celebrity can boost its sagging ratings and restore credibility to a network damaged by recent reporting missteps.

The simple fact that Couric’s move has been treated as a major news story is evidence of the progress women have made in the working world, and the lengths they still have to go. The idea of a woman as the lead anchor going solo on the evening news would have been unheard of 30 years ago. Already quite familiar with a high-powered job, Couric will break down another workplace barrier in her new position.

Like many women, it’s likely Couric is familiar with the triumphs and struggles that many women with high-end positions face in the corporate world. Naturally, the overwhelming majority of women can’t relate to Couric’s celebrity or $15 million annual salary, but they are quite familiar with the mixed blessings that come with being a highly successful woman. On one hand, these positions have come with a status and self-fulfillment that have resulted in economic power and the removal of boundaries. On the other hand, high-powered women continue to be labeled as missing something in their lives and having a direct impact on traditional roles like child-bearing.

In a recent and controversial article by Alison Wolf, the Kings College of London academic writes that highly successful women have created enormous benefits for society, but have also contributed to “the death of sisterhood, a decline in female altruism and growing disincentives to bear children.”

In developed countries, Wolf believes that women now have the ability to take virtually any career path and the end result has created and will continue to create a fracture in society. Wolf doesn’t argue that it’s the wrong path for women to take, just a direction that will result in consequences, both good and bad.

“Women used to enter the elite as daughters, mothers and wives. Now they do so as individuals,” Wolf writes in the April issue of Prospect Magazine. “Three consequences get far less attention than they deserve. The first is the death of sisterhood: an end to the millennia during which women of all classes shared the same major life experiences to a far greater degree than did their men. The second is the erosion of ‘female altruism,’ the service ethos which has been profoundly important to modern industrial societies – particularly in the education of their young, and the care of their old and sick. The third is the impact of employment change on childbearing. We are familiar with the prospect of demographic decline, yet we ignore, sometimes willfully, the extent to which educated women face disincentives to bear children.”

Wolf’s views, of course, have been subject to criticism. Many women believe that life in the high-powered fast lane can result in positive opportunities that other women may not be able to access. Many high-profile mothers with six-figure incomes have perks like on-site daycare for children. They also have the benefits of housekeepers, accommodating spouses and other support systems. In an age where even the two-income family is struggling just to make ends meet, the woman with the high-end job will be able to give her children and family the advantages and professional awards they otherwise wouldn’t have.

 The woman with the elite job faces enormous challenges every day. And if she has a family, then the life is even more complex. In spite of recent trend stories the past few years that highlighted women opting out of high-powered jobs to raise children and return home, the Center for Economic Policy has squashed that theory, stating that the number of women in the labor market has remained steady over the past few years, according to a March report in the San Francisco Chronicle. In fact, most high-powered women, whether they’re married, have children or are single, say the emotional charge and rewards from their jobs make them better spouses, girlfriends, parents and people.

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Teena Rose is a columnist, public speaker, and certified/published resume writer with Resume to Referral. She’s authored several books, including including "20-Minute Cover Letter Fixer" "How to Design, Write, and Compile a Quality Brag Book" and "Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales."