Dear college women everywhere:
When we graduate, we'll get paid less and be offered fewer job promotions than our male counterparts. Billion-dollar companies may, if we're lucky, offer us maternity leave, but they'll likely deny paternity leave to our future husbands. These and many more gender-based discriminatory policies dreadfully perpetuate the old-fashioned thinking that the onus of "family building" falls upon us, not our husbands -- putting us at a clear and immediate disadvantage in the professional world. As women, we must battle these various policies and structures that suppress our ability to gain equity in the workplace. For this reason, we need all the advice we can get on how to break these glass ceilings, both big and small. Here is some of the best advice I've heard: "Lean in", maximize the "defining decade" and change the workplace to enable women to "have it all." The worst advice I've come across? "Find your husband in college."
A recent op-ed in The Daily Princetonian encourages young women to do just this. The advice is terrible and at times seems awfully strange. The author purports that her two sons have "limitless" numbers of women they can choose from in college -- as if women are little fishies and her sons are big predator sharks. While the author advises freshmen girls to be "nicer" to men (otherwise, they will totally regret it when they are 22-year-old seniors and single), I contend confidently that there are many worse situations in life for female graduates -- like graduating college with $100,000 worth of debt and being unemployed or, even worse, unemployable.
Where are the op-eds encouraging men to find their wives in college? Or the op-eds advising men to "be nicer," because the last thing they want is to graduate at 22 sans girlfriend? Those articles, my female friends, don't exist. The very idea of those articles sounds laughable.
Although I didn't take the Princetonian article too seriously, I was truly bothered -- borderline frustrated -- at the prospect of some women actually feeling pressured to find their hubbies in college. Some of you are afraid to graduate college without having a verbal commitment from a boy. Some of you are genuinely concerned about not finding "the one" during your four years of college. You're investing more time in finding him than you are in finding yourself. That's not good. That's not what college is meant for.
In my experience as a college student, I've noticed one too many friends sell themselves short for men. And it's not good. We should invest our time and energy not in finding a husband, but rather in starting our careers. We should prioritize our careers over boys who -- let's be real -- prioritize their careers over us. Men are less interested in finding their wives in college and more interested in setting themselves up for success in the professional world. That, coupled with their unfair advantage based on gender, is why they "do" better (ahem, earn more and get promoted more) than us in the workplace.
College is our time to really challenge ourselves. It's our time to question our identities and our goals: Do we want to get our MBAs, MPPs or JDs? Do we even want to get another degree? Do we want to chase private sector money or do we want to devote ourselves to a 'labor of love' in the public sector? Perhaps we can do both. Where do we want to be in 10 years -- professionally and financially? Maybe in an office forging relationships with other business leaders, or maybe on the floor of your state Senate fighting for issues you care about.
And other than our professional development, college is also a time to focus on our spiritual growth and personal identity -- both of which are often tried and challenged during our four years away from home.
Searching for these answers is not an easy task. It takes time and a lot of reflection - soul searching, if you will -- to fully understand where we have been, where we are, and where we ought to go.
For me, family building can wait. I'm not too worried about finding a husband now or next year; indeed, I'm more concerned about identifying where I want to be post-graduation and creating a strategy to get there. I've prioritized my career over my hypothetical husband and, quite frankly, I am unapologetic about it. What is there to apologize for? Like the majority of men I go to school with, I'm putting myself first.
It would be a grave mistake to misuse our four years in college under the impression that our lives will come together upon finding our future husbands. The fullness of our lives doesn't depend on men, nor does it depend on how soon we find them. The lives we lead will be happier ones if we value ourselves enough to pursue our dreams first. Find that lucky man after you've found yourself.
Best of luck to you in everything you pursue,
PS: I'm of the opinion that a healthy relationship will never make you choose between "him" and you. If you enter a relationship that enables you to grow, explore and succeed, then it may be worth hanging on to. I know I am.