The Ambition Decisions: What Women Know About Work, Family, and the Path to Building a Life

Hana Schank and Elizabeth Wallace. Viking, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-55881-1
Journalists Schank and Wallace examine lifestyle choices made by American women reaching midlife in this thought-provoking albeit narrow study of college-educated Gen-Xers. The authors, who attended Northwestern University together in the early 1990s, confess to hitting an “unexpected transition point” in their mid-40s, despite both having achieved all the conventional markers of life: satisfying careers, marriage, and kids. They land on the theory that “this gnawing feeling of uncertainty” had something to do with being female, so they set out to interview other women their age, using members of their sorority as a focus group from which to extrapolate their theory. The authors identify three distinct career arcs: “high achievers” (the C-level executives who stuck to their career trajectory), “opt outers” (who quit working when they became mothers), and “flex lifers” (who chose to move into jobs that allowed flexibility with their family). Although they find that motherhood may impact the trajectory of one’s career arc, biology doesn’t determine destiny so much as the desire to please others. After decades directing their focus on making others happy, the authors note “a power conferred on women in their 40s” that leads to greater confidence in their own desires. The methodology of limiting research to the authors’ sorority sisters will turn off readers looking for something rigorous and data-based, but the authors do provide some useful though casual insight about the post–women’s liberation world. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/16/2018
Release date: 06/19/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-525-55882-8
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-525-55885-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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