Shatkin himself, on the Huffington Post, says that
The most rewarding jobs in the coming years will focus on high tech, health care, and business efficiency.
That description, needless to say, doesn't really track with either being a college professor or being an anthropologist (unless you are one of the small number of anthropologists who consult for business). Neither career is included in the top 10 list posted by Shatkin's publisher to promote the latest edition of his book.
Goudreau tells us is that the list she is discussing ranks jobs women "feel most satisfied and successful in", compiled by Shatkin
based on women's high satisfaction levels, from the National Survey of College Graduates conducted by the Census Bureau; median annual earnings for salaried workers, from the Department of Labor (DOL); and the job outlook through 2018, based on projections from the DOL.
The results, Goudreau notes, "may surprise you".
And they surely should; in order, the list counts down from college professor, anthropologist, oceanographer, natural sciences manager, clergy, surveyor, CEO, geoscientist, medical professionals, to aerospace engineer.
So what would explain why these jobs should be the "best" for women in 2012? Remember that these jobs are being ranked based on reported satisfaction, earnings, and job outlook over the next few years.
Goudreau writes that
Shatkin believes women likely value post-secondary teaching for its high earnings, prestige and stimulating environments. The National Survey of College Graduates found that women appreciate a job's location and environment more than men, and Shatkin points out that college students are generally excited to learn, colleagues are of high caliber and college campuses provide comfortable amenities. At the same time, post-secondary teachers have a high degree of independence and autonomy, which Shatkin says almost all workers prize.
At the end of a semester, it is hard for me to take these generalizations entirely seriously. My autonomy seems relatively limited after plowing through dissertation drafts, end of term papers, not to mention the constant stream of administrative memos. But I do recognize that I get to set a lot of the parameters of my own job, and I do definitely value that.
And I am lucky: the students I teach are eager to learn. So, maybe this is not an inaccurate characterization of some of the pluses of the job.
But I wish a little more attention had been paid to what are called "amenities" (sounds like an up-scale resort) that colleges provide, because I don't really believe the underlying gender ideology, which would imply that women are less motivated by the basic compensation package a job provides. Unpacking "amenities" a little we might find that colleges have, as a result of changes in the last quarter of the 20th century, more routine provision for life events, including parenting, that make them pragmatically better employers for women.
I don't have any data on this. But I just don't buy the idea that women rate college teaching higher because locations are better. And to quote an old slogan from an Ivy League staff unionization effort, "You Can't Eat Prestige".
Then there is anthropology.
A slide show accompanying the article pictures a blond woman sitting somewhere in the Andes talking to indigenous women dressed in colorful costume. The image, from Getty Images, is actually titled "Peru, Huilco, female tourist sitting with woman holding baby, smiling". So, not actually what ethnography is like in practice, but probably a fair window into the imagined reality that "anthropologist" conjures up-- even though fieldwork like this would be a tiny part of the job of even an ethnographer working in the Andes, let alone the typical anthropologist today.
Shatkin's proposed explanation of the allure of anthropology (and some of the other unlikely science fields on the list) seems pretty questionable to me. Goudreau cites Shatkin citing survey data that show women rank job security over salary and advancement opportunities, explaining that
It may be hard to land a job as a post-secondary teacher, anthropologist (No. 2), oceanographer (No. 3) or natural sciences manager (No. 4), but once in the position turnover is low..."If you're caring for a family," [Shatkin] says, "job security is a top priority."
Now, that linkage seems pretty weak to me. Not only is it hard to "land a job" as a college professor (and many anthropologists continue to work primarily as faculty, so this applies to both): earning tenure is a multi-year project, not guaranteed. And if you find yourself seven years into a college teaching career and don't earn tenure, the number of positions you will be considered for are drastically reduced. Not to mention that the trend nationwide is away from tenured faculty, with adjunct (never-to-be-secure) lecturers and instructors increasing in proportions of faculty.
If we were actually dealing with security-seeking behaviors, I would suggest that clergy and medical professionals, #5 and #9 on this list, would be better bets. And while clergy earn less, there are far more projected job openings than there are for anthropologists: 21,800, compared to 450! Only positions as oceanographers are projected as less common than anthropologists: if you want to be the next Jacques Cousteau, there are only 100 positions expected to open up between now and 2018.
Really, there is no question: women should be flocking to the 36,000 job openings projected in the medical professions, second only in number to college faculty. The average earnings at the low end of the medical professionals job hierarchy equal the average for college professors at the higher end (in a scale that runs from language instructors to law school faculty).
According to this list, the 450 lucky individuals who can expect to be hired as anthropologists will see income at the bottom of the scale for college faculty, with only clergy paid less.
But then there is that question of satisfaction. Trying to track down sources for these generalizations proved frustrating.
To understand what I expected to find, let me offer an historical aside.
Back in 1994, the Society for American Archaeology published results of a path-breaking survey of archaeological employment. There was a lot of information about shifting employment sectors, about women's participation in employment, and the like. One thing that stuck with me was a finding, summarized by Melinda Zeder:
Not only is there a general preference for museum employment, there are also relatively high levels of job satisfaction among both men and women in museum positions, despite their generally lower salaries. Job satisfaction among academics, however, is not as high as would be expected from the stated preferences of most respondents for employment in academic settings. This is especially true of women in academia..
Having worked in museums before moving into the faculty, this made total sense to me, even though I would not have predicted this outcome in advance. In museums, I did what I most loved; and even though I took a salary hit to do it, I still recognize that what I was doing then was most aligned with both my training and my interests.
As for the contrasting findings about academic employment, even at the time, what I thought college faculty life would be about was far from reality. What motivated me to consider being a faculty member was the prospect of teaching, sharing my enthusiasm with my students; and conducting research, while introducing students to the process, as I had been. What I never thought of was the administrivia that would await me, taking time away from the things I valued about the job. So it wasn't surprising that museum archaeologists, although lower paid, were more satisfied than college faculty.
The source used by Shatkin for data on job satisfaction is a broader survey, but similar in concept. The National Survey of College Graduates is designed by the National Science Foundation and carried out by the Bureau of the Census. According to NSF, the most recent 2003 survey included over 170,000 participants drawn from the 2000 census. (There is a dataset from the survey that anyone can download, but I have not had time to read all the documentation and manipulate the files.)
The job satisfaction question in the most recent update of this file was asked in April 2006-- so, before the economic meltdown.
Data from the survey feeds into different reports but I did not find one that considered male and female job satisfaction in ways that would underwrite the Forbes report. The most basic report I found summarizes the labor force in science and engineering in 2006, but doesn't discuss job satisfaction (although it is a good source of information about proportions of men and women in different fields, like anthropology).
More analysis is provided in a 2011 report on employment participation in science and engineering careers by women, minorities, and people with disabilities. The trends outlined would suggest that women shouldn't rush to follow Forbes' and Shatkin's advice about the science-related careers listed as top jobs, which would anthropology, oceanography, natural sciences, geosciences, and medical professions.
Women were, as Shatkin suggested, more likely to cite family responsibilities in explaining their employment decisions. But what they were explaining most often was being unemployed or employed part time.
Meanwhile, women in tenure track college faculty positions were less likely to have received federal grants or contracts, even though women's publication profiles were indistinguishable from men's. The report celebrates a rise in women holding full-time, full professorships-- the positions that have the stability Shatkin says women may be motivated to seek-- but they still make up only about 20% of this group, far lower than their representation in the general population or even the college graduate population.
So, by all means go into college teaching. By all means, think of anthropology, oceanography, or geology as a career. But do so without illusions.
Or maybe I should be less cynical. A non-governmental group, the Families and Work Organization, issued a report in 2011 that would urge me to temper my negativity with some end-of-year positive thinking.
They found that "for the first time" young men and women have the same level of interest in jobs "with greater responsibility".
Nor do ambitious young women face a lack of support from the young men around them; the study found, again for the first time, that
men's and women's views about appropriate work and family roles have converged to a point where they are virtually identical and not significantly different.
Today, there is no difference between young women with and without children in their desire to move to jobs with more responsibility.
This is really a turning point, IMHO. If women are no longer feeling forced to choose between family and career, then any job may be a "best job".
Including anthropology. Which, by the way, I think is ranked too low on Forbes' list.
I still think it is the best job anyone could have, in this year or any other.