The career goals of men and women who graduated from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges last June are more similar than at any time in recent years, according to a report on the class of 1980 issued recently by the Harvard Office of Career Services and Off-Campus Learning (OCS-OCL).
The gap between the percentage of men and women selecting careers in the traditionally male-dominated fields of business, medicine, and law, and in the traditionally female-dominated fields of the helping professions and the arts, began to decrease for the first time since the career office started to keep these statistics seven years ago.
These findings are based on a survey answered last May by 493 women and 930 men, making up 95 percent of the graduating class. The figures reflect a change in outlook on the part of men and women alike, says Martha Leape, associate director of OCS-OCL and author of the report.
"On the basis of our counseling, we have felt this change for a while, but this is the first year the statistics show it," she comments. "Before, for example, as men's interest in business increased, so did the women's, but the women's didn't start to catch up until now."
Those women who accepted jobs in business, Ms. Leape says, are starting at the same level as men, and with equal pay.
Robert Ginn, director of OCS-OCL, says that the trend toward more similar career goals seems to be continuing in the class of 1981. This spring, 21 percent of the men and 20 percent of the women in the senior class have signed up for interviews with business recruiters visiting the campus. Because the ratio of men to women in the class of 1981 is 2-to-1, two-thirds of the students interviewing are men.
"Unfortunately, it is reasonably clear that there is still a fair amount of prejudice against women at midlevel in their careers," Mr. Ginn says. "So the growing interest of women in the professions indicates there could be some frustrations ahead. In the other hand, it also could mean there will be the critical mass needed to initiate change."
Mr. Ginn points out that while men and women are arriving at more similar career choices, their decisionmaking processes still are fundamentally different. Women tend to take more issues into consideration, he says, including marriage and family.
"What we see changing is women's expectations of themselves," he says. "We no longer see women consistently seeking occupations that don't measure up to their aptitudes and interests."
The gap between the percentage of men and women choosing to attend some graduate schools immediately or shortly after graduation is narrowing, according to the report on the class of 1980. This past year, 14.3 percent of the men and 13.6 of the women planned to go to business school; in 1979, 18.4 percent of the men and 14.3 percent of the women were interested in a business program.
The most popular graduate program for the 1980 class was law, attracting 16.9 percent of the men and 15.2 percent of the women, compared with 17 percent of the men an d 10.7 percent of the women the previous year.