Single Women Are Less Ambitious, But Only When Men Are Around

There is a new study out of Harvard, it's all about the career ambitions of single women, and it's 100% fascinating (plus kind of sad). In sum, the study basically lays out that single women present themselves to be less ambitious when men are around. But let's talk about that.

The information was gathered by giving a survey to MBA students, in which they were asked to fill out their ideal jobs — including hours, salary etc. What they found? "Single female students reported lower desired salaries and willingness to travel and work long hours on a real-stakes placement questionnaire when they expected their classmates to see their preferences." A follow-up survey showed that what caused those answers to change was the presence of single, male classmates who they thought would be seeing their answers. Interestingly, women who were married did not change their answers when men were in the room. As for the men, they kept their answers consistent the whole time.

The study talks about the societal norms at play here saying, "Men tend to avoid female partners with characteristics usually associated with professional ambition, such as high levels of education." And while it's easy to write that off and say — well those men then don't deserve those women — that's not exactly how it statistically ends up working out. In relationships where women make more money than men, there are higher rates of divorce; and promotions increase a woman's chance of divorce but not a man's.

The results of the study are highly fascinating and honestly totally worth writing out in full: "Single women shy away from actions that could improve their careers to avoid signaling undesirable personality traits to the marriage market. Three-quarters of single female students at an elite U.S. MBA program report having avoided activities they thought would help their careers to avoid looking ambitious, assertive, or pushy. They are more likely to have avoided these activities than non-single women or men. Unmarried women participate much less in class than married women, despite the fact that they perform equivalently on the parts of the grade unobservable to their peers. When they expect their classmates to observe their answers, single women report substantially less career ambition in a questionnaire designed to be instrumental in finding them a summer internship. They also express much less career ambition in front of their (single) male than female classmates."

In sum, single women act differently when it comes to their work dreams — whether they realize it or not and due to no fault of their own — when men are around.