Recently, a Guardian article put the case that women in US Ivy League universities have a duty to go into business. Writer Keli Goff argued, “I do consider any Harvard Law School degree obtained by a woman who then chooses not to use it in any sort of professional capacity throughout most of her life a wasted opportunity. That degree could have gone to a woman who does want to spend her entire life using it to advance the cause of women.” This followed claims by one Ms Susan Patton, who said that women at said Ivy League universities should be setting aside their studies to go in search of a good husband, with plenty of wealth potential. After all, that’s all these women will need, right?
As young 20-somethings battling deadlines, library fines and groping in Smack, we women of Warwick University rarely think we should be setting aside our academic struggles to go husband hunting. After all, the nature of the university we’re at necessitates hard work, both past and present, and I feel like perhaps telling your tutor you haven’t made their deadline because you’ve been trialling the marriage crop of your department might not go down all that well anyway.
That said, reverse that and you might well have a very Warwick women’s worry. At one of the top universities in the country, with the best employment rates in the country, might it be that we do, in fact, have a duty to go into high-powered, demanding careers? Do we, the women of Warwick, have a duty to shatter Ye Olde Glass Ceiling?
In a sense, this can be a non-gendered discussion; do the most talented Warwick men have a duty to take their talents into businesses that need them? Yes. By benefiting from the education system in such a privileged way as we do, and obtaining a brilliant education like this, there is a legitimate expectation that we put that education back into the system.
But, as usual with discussion surrounding women and their careers, this is not and cannot be a non-gendered discussion.
Do you want to spend your days ironing your husband’s shirts, leafing through Farrow and Ball’s latest shades of aubergine and wondering which of your 8 children you forgot to pick up from school? Or perhaps you want to while them away charging around an office shouting at 75 subordinates to produce you an extensive report by midday sharp, whilst realising you forgot to pick up your Pret a Manger baguette. Whichever you would prefer, ladies, the media will take issue with your choice. God forbid if for a SECOND you think you could have both!
But the very nature of this constant criticism shows us women are not even slightly close to equality in the workplace, or careers. In which case, there is good argument to say yes, we do have a duty to go into the high-powered, demanding jobs that our Red Brick degrees set us up for. By using our brilliant minds and education to shatter the glass ceiling, we forge the way for women less educationally privileged than ourselves to enjoy equality in their workplaces, and in other areas of their lives.
On the other hand, in this war we wage for gender equality, it is essential that we defend our rights not just to work, but to have children and stay at home to raise them if we so wish, and to defend the rights of our future husbands to also stay at home to raise them if they wish. This whole equality utopia is about choice, after all. So, in that sense, we need to be careful when we talk about “duty”.
This is not something I will try to nor be able to answer, but, as we approach the Great Job Hunt, or churn out endless internship applications, it is something we Warwick women should most certainly consider.