Thank god girls are choosing 'worthwhile' jobs over money

You don't have to be rich to be successful
You don't have to be rich to be successful Credit: Alamy

Poor girls. Whenever education-based research comes out, it seems to show their latest failings.

There aren’t enough of them in STEM subjects (that’s science, tech, maths and engineering), they have complexes about being perfect, they don’t play enough sports and now the latest study says they’re 'self-limiting'.

According to Oxford University, which surveyed nearly 4,000 sixth formers, girls are sacrificing their careers by going for “worthwhile” low-paid jobs such as charity or museum work while boys go straight in for high-paid roles.

Jonathan Black, director of the Oxford University Careers Service, lamented the findings: “Sixth form girls have lower confidence about their careers and, compared with boys, are more concerned about each aspect of job applications, and are more interested in careers that offer job security, in a cause they ‘feel good about’.

"What these sixth-form girls are showing is that their main life goal is not earning more cash than Kimye – it’s to do something meaningful with their lives."

"This has the knock-on effect that girls may be self-limiting their choice of careers, especially because the types of jobs they seek often have informal entry processes (via networking or low and unpaid internships, for example)."

Hang on a second. Girls are going for ‘worthwhile’ jobs they ‘feel good about’ that ‘offer job security’, and we should be disappointed with this news?

To me it looks like Mr Black is analysing this research through the particular lens of materialistic ambition. Instead of appreciating the fact that girls have bigger goals than raking in six figure salaries, Mr Black is criticising them for their conscientiousness.

He's suggesting they're limiting their own careers and making the wrong choices. But these girls aren’t opting for the easy path; they’ve clearly thought this through. They’re "concerned about each aspect of job applications”, and they’ve chosen jobs that have “informal entry processes”.

Anyone who’s tried to enter a career via networking or unpaid internships knows how much harder that is than filling out a graduate or apprentice application. It often means having to battle for a job role that may not even exist yet. 

In my view, that’s a damn lot more challenging than going into a established career path set by companies which suck up to new school leavers faster than they can fill in their UCAS applications.

There’s nothing “self-limiting” about it either. People can still have career success and ambition in altruistic fields such as charity work or the care industry. Their salaries may not start high, but that doesn’t mean they can’t work towards promotions. Ultimately, what these sixth-form girls are showing is that their main life goal is not earning more cash than Kimye – it’s to do something meaningful with their lives.

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian Credit: Rex Features

Many may argue that only girls from privileged backgrounds will feel inclined to do this with the safety net of their parents’ spare bedroom, or that one day they’ll start to tire of their low earnings and seek a quick fix in marrying one of those former classmates-turned-bankers. That their 'worthwhile' job will fizzle out or at least be subsidised as they end up relying upon a man to support them.

But this Oxford study looked at 4,000 students from a diverse range of backgrounds and didn't find any evidence that it was only the privileged girls who sought out jobs they ‘felt good’ about rather than jobs with large pay checks. The girls who wanted meaningful jobs weren't blindly ignoring the financial implications of their future; they just chose ‘job security’ rather than a high starting salary. 

It’s a trend I’ve noticed with my own peers. Most of us girls have opted for careers that we really care about, which generally translates to arts, humanities and creative roles. 

"Why would we go for 15-20 hour days and no work-life balance whilst doing a job that doesn't have any obvious benefits for the wider world?"

We all had the necessary grades to go into high-paid graduate jobs but we chose not to. Why would we go for 15-20 hour days and no work-life  balance whilst doing a job that doesn't have any obvious benefits for the wider world? We’ve read the tragic news stories about banking interns driven to drastic measures and we understand the importance of mental health.

Is it really that surprising that we’d prefer a life of minimal luxuries and maximum job satisfaction over the opposite? 

Assuming that jobs with high incomes are more rewarding than lower-paid jobs in humanitarian and creative fields is narrow-minded and old-fashioned. Women and men can be just as successful in jobs they “feel good about” compared to high-paid jobs they may not feel as passionately about. Arguably, they’ll even be more successful in the jobs they truly love.

We should welcome this news that girls are making up their own minds about what they want from their careers and urge boys to do the same. For all we know, they may be feeling pressured into picking traditional ‘breadwinner’ roles when all they want to do is help the homeless.