Forget the glass ceiling because it’s about to become irrelevant. Not because women are finally going to get to the top of Fortune 500 companies in forces of more than two companies at a time. That may happen, but no one’s holding their breath. The glass ceiling is going to become irrelevant because the women who are coming into the workforce now see what’s above that glass and they are uninterested.

Recently I got a peek into the world above the glass ceiling when I read a profile of Jeff Immelt, chief executive of GE. Immelt said that he has been working 100-hour weeks for the last twenty years. He also said that he married a co-worker and they have an eighteen year-old-daughter. It is unclear to me why anyone would aspire to this life. If I were his daughter I think I’d feel neglected. And if I were his wife, I think I’d feel like a single parent with great alimony. If this is life above the glass ceiling, I think it’s absurd.

By definition the glass ceiling only exists if someone is below it, longingly looking up. And soon, there won’t be anyone left looking up. There is a broad disenchantment with corporate life that is gaining force among young workers. A new definition of success, that includes taking part in the unglorified daily tasks of raising kids, does not accommodate dreams of crashing glass ceilings.

So it is no surprise that five years after earning an MBA, 40% of women are working from home. Often the press writes about this statistic like it’s a travesty, but I think it’s great. It’s an achievement that these women have decided they can find success on their own terms instead of having to fit themselves through paths that were established for men, decades ago.

The disenchantment with corporate life is not limited to women: eighty percent of men aged 20 to 39 said that a flexible job to accommodate kids takes a higher priority than doing challenging work or earning a high salary. And this trend is growing: Study after study shows that one of the defining traits of generation Y is that they are determined to not give up their personal life in order to get ahead at work.

Instead of aligning yourself with people who are giving up everything in their personal life to “get to the top,” be one of the people who is redefining success. You can decide what is success for you. Don’t be sucked into the idea of success as defined by the men who constructed the glass ceiling. After all, their lives included little room for passionate interests outside of work, only ceremonious parenting, and a wife who managed everything about that man’s personal life.

That vision of success sounds quaint and outdated, but look, Jeff Immelt is still living that life. And so are the majority of his peers (although it’s hard to believe many others are living it to the extreme that he is).

Maybe, in ten years, there will be no one left to march up the stairs to the glass ceiling. Maybe it will be like the tree falling in the forest: No one will see it, so it will be as good as non-existent.

People used to think that the revolution would happen above the glass ceiling, as more women pushed their way to the top. In fact, though, the revolution is happening below the glass ceiling, where people are reestablishing their priorities. Kids and ambition can co-exist beneath the glass ceiling. Plenty of ambitious people have grand, remarkable achievements without giving up a vibrant personal life. Why would anyone aim for anything else?

17 replies
  1. Gerry
    Gerry says:

    I for one am all for this. My wife works from home, freelance accountancy and I am happy she has managed to be succesfull and escaped the rat race.

    Now, if only i could find a job that lets me work from home haha!.

  2. Bytesland
    Bytesland says:

    On behalf of all women would like to argue!I have had experience of working from home. First time it was very much comfortable! But after some time it became comfortable only for my husband!Think of it: wife is always home, Lunch is always ready and hot, children are always supervised and to all these there is not a bad incom! But! what about poor wify!? what do we have from all these? continue to sit at home without any communication? SAD!

    • Amy
      Amy says:

      We women need to stop equating staying home with being maid, servant and chef–unless you love those jobs.

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    eid messages says:

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  4. Rambling Follower
    Rambling Follower says:

    This post turns a blind eye to is reality that the rich have gotten exponentially richer while the rest of us are struggling to stay in the middle or working class.

    It is great folks don’t want to be greedy, but to breezily “report” on the lack of interest in CEO jobs does a huge disservice to what is really going on in our culture – a larger income gap than existed during the Gilded Age.

  5. Travis W.
    Travis W. says:

    Honestly, where I would like to agree with you… I don’t. As “Rambling Follower” commented, this article breezily makes a lot of claims about the workforce not wanting to aspire to these positions, but does not cite any of the actual studies used.

    “five years after earning an MBA, 40% of women are working from home.”

    Please provide this study and proof of this statistic. Also, (40%) if this is a provable statistic, I can’t imagine that 40% is any more increased than years before? Maybe these women were fired? It leaves it open to the fact that 60% of women with MBA’s are still in the workforce. Which is a big majority.

    “eighty percent of men aged 20 to 39 said that a flexible job to accommodate kids takes a higher priority than doing challenging work or earning a high salary.”

    This is just absurd. If you are going to claim something like this you have to provide your research and cite the statistics to back it up… I have a feeling you just pulled this number out of thin air. If it is an accurate statistic that has not been twisted to fit your argument… well then I am luckily in the 20%.

    “Study after study shows that one of the defining traits of generation Y is that they are determined to not give up their personal life in order to get ahead at work.”

    Also absurd. Please, again… cite your studies here. Where I agree with you that this generation is very “hipster”, the reason they don’t want to work is because they feel entitled to wealth and financial stability without work… not that they value personal and family responsibility more that work ethic.

    I like the premise of your article. I just think its littered with shady “studies and statistics”. I am a man, with an incredibly successful wife. I believe women should excel to executive and CEO positions… because, believe it or not, those companies in the fortune 500 will always have a significant impact on our personal lives. They have the power to impact global culture and they are not going away. Just because the glass ceiling may disappear does not mean the power of those in executive seat disappears along with it. People with moral and ethical standard should hold these positions to create a work culture that is empathetic toward those who are family oriented and not career oriented.

  6. Catharine
    Catharine says:

    ” It’s an achievement that these women have decided they can find success on their own terms instead of having to fit themselves through paths that were established for men, decades ago.” First off this is absolute bullshit the whole point of the fight to break through the glass ceiling is to tear down the fact that certain “paths” were established for men only. You miss the entire point as Women usually can’t break through the glass ceiling because they already make less money in the workplace! You restating the fact that the top is only for men is exactly what is holding women back from breaking it if they want to. Go and spew your bullshit somewhere else but not places people actually look; frankly I’ve just read a few of your articles and every one of them made me angry and the complete engrained misogyny in all of them. Also, you NEED to report sexual harassment or it will never stop for anyone, not just yourself!

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