"These are the 'know your value' conversations that we need to have. These women--their challenges, choices, and successes--are all of us." --Mika Brzezinski
Over the last sixty years, women's lives have transformed radically from generation to generation. Without a template to follow--a way to peek into the future to catch a glimpse of what leaving this job or marrying that person might mean to us decades from now--women make important decisions blindly, groping for a way forward, winging it, and hoping it all works out.
As they faced unexpectedly fraught decisions about their own lives, journalists Hana Schank and Elizabeth Wallace found themselves wondering about the women they'd graduated alongside. What happened to these women who seemed set to reap the rewards of second-wave feminism, on the brink of taking over the world? Where did their ambition lead them?
So they tracked down their classmates and, over several hundred hours of interviews, gathered and mapped data about real women's lives that has been missing from our conversations about women and the workplace. Whether you're deciding if you should pass up a promotion in favor of more flex time, planning when to get pregnant, or wondering what the ramifications are of being the only person in your house who ever unloads the dishwasher, The Ambition Decisions is a guide to the changes that may seem arbitrary but are life defining, by women who've been there.
Organized by theme, each chapter draws on real women's stories of facing down crisis, transition, and decision-making to illustrate broader trends Schank and Wallace observed. Each chapter wraps up with a useful bulleted list of questions to consider and tips to integrate that will guide women of all ages along the way to finding purpose and passion in work and life.
Journalists Schank and Wallace examine lifestyle choices made by American women reaching midlife in this thought-provoking albeit narrow study of college-educated Gen-Xers. The authors, who attended Northwestern University together in the early 1990s, confess to hitting an "unexpected transition point" in their mid-40s, despite both having achieved all the conventional markers of life: satisfying careers, marriage, and kids. They land on the theory that "this gnawing feeling of uncertainty" had something to do with being female, so they set out to interview other women their age, using members of their sorority as a focus group from which to extrapolate their theory. The authors identify three distinct career arcs: "high achievers" (the C-level executives who stuck to their career trajectory), "opt outers" (who quit working when they became mothers), and "flex lifers" (who chose to move into jobs that allowed flexibility with their family). Although they find that motherhood may impact the trajectory of one's career arc, biology doesn't determine destiny so much as the desire to please others. After decades directing their focus on making others happy, the authors note "a power conferred on women in their 40s" that leads to greater confidence in their own desires. The methodology of limiting research to the authors' sorority sisters will turn off readers looking for something rigorous and data-based, but the authors do provide some useful though casual insight about the post women's liberation world.