Like all educated women, female Stanford students won’t just settle for any job. However, after a few years post-college wholly encompassed by their careers, women are hit by the sudden realization that their biological clocks are ticking and are forced to settle for suboptimal personal lives. In our current culture, there is a generation of women deprived of their ability to choose a traditional life due to social stigma and pressure to be like men, who can afford to be completely immersed in their careers in their twenties. Our culture desperately wants to frame women and men as equal such that we take away from a woman’s autonomy to be a woman. By telling women they are like men, they plan their careers like men—until the day they realize that they are not men and their biological clocks tick away much faster.
In college, we don’t differentiate between men and women when advising students about their careers, as if their life arcs will follow the same trajectory. The greatest privilege that high-earning, educated women have is the privilege of choice, but this notion of perfectly equal career trajectories disadvantages women. The downstream effect? A fertility crisis and a concentration of wealth among the highly educated and elite. Fertility rates are decreasing in developed countries, leaving the populations of developing countries far outpacing the developed; among educated women, the median age of having children is 5 years later than those less educated.
We have a serious societal problem of educated women not having children. The archetype of the perfect wife and mother is now attributed to traditional conservative values, whereas the feminist with an illustrious career and geriatric (aged 35+) pregnancies is the modern, liberal woman. Biological and social constraints are creating a gap in the developed world between the 2.5 children the average woman desires and the 1.7 that she actually has. This has led to a rise in fertility startups, helping these women have children at these unnatural ages in unnatural ways.
Conservative women also have more kids, and they have them earlier than liberals do. This is because conservatives operate on a different definition of feminism: feminism means the right to choose, not the need to act. Put simply, conservative feminist women can choose a career and not to have kids, to be a housewife, or anything in-between. However, broadly speaking, liberal feminists believe that feminism is only real if they actually enact every liberty they have fought for.
In college, it seems rather innocuous to say that you plan to have kids around 30. While being filmed for The Marriage Pact documentary, many female students had never thought seriously about when they wanted to have children and threw out numbers, usually around 30. Instead, they spent time laboring over every career decision, pushing off their personal lives until they have established careers. Soon, women who think this realize that this means getting married by 28, which means finding a suitable partner by 26, which is four years out of college. If you do two years of banking and two years of private equity, or any common route for fresh grads, your 80-hour work weeks do not allow you to date enough to know what you want in a partner or search through enough partners by 26. They should really start looking in their junior year of college.
There is a “well-known myth that about 70 percent of Stanford students marry other Stanfordites.” This rate is too high compared to what is colloquially discussed on campus these days. Now we tend to hear 20-30 percent of Stanford students marry their classmates. To date and successfully find a lifelong partner does not happen after weekly frat parties or spending all your time in Huang basement. It’s especially difficult for high-achieving women as they progress in their careers; it’s such a problem that there’s even an app for it. Simply put, high-achieving men generally don’t want to marry high-achieving women, but high-achieving women want to marry high-achieving men. While this does not lead to an inequality, it does lead to a scarce playing field. The “Female Delusion Calculator” is a fun tool to see just how scarce the market really is.
Neglecting their personal lives in favor of their professional lives makes women fall behind in the long run. It also generally decreases equality in society, further concentrating wealth at the top. It is a privilege to acknowledge this gap, and by doing so we can shape better lives. Maybe business school is useful (for women) after all.