(MoneyWatch) At family gatherings around the country over the next week, relatives will subject small children to the age-old question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Some answers will be real job titles (one of my sons wants to be a librarian). Others are less likely (the other answered "race car driver"). But some fascinating new research from LinkedIn finds that, whatever the kids answer, boys are more likely to wind up in the dream careers, or related ones, than girls.
Some analysis the company did after a recent survey of several thousand LinkedIn members found that a third of U.S. men (33.6 percent) are either in their dream career or a related one. Only 23.8 percent of U.S. women professionals could say the same.
This is true even though men were more likely, as boys, to have dreamed of highly unlikely careers (astronaut, president, cowboy, secret agent) than girls. ("Princess," incidentally, was included in the one-in-a-million category, but few professional women recalled wanting to be one when they grew up).
Instead, the biggest difference among U.S. respondents seems to be that women dreamed of creative careers when they were girls (37.3 percent of U.S. female professionals, vs. 16.9 percent of U.S. male professionals, according to LinkedIn). Creative careers included such jobs as journalist, photographer, fashion designer, singer, chef and landscaper.
There's nothing inherently bad about steering away from whatever answer you gave to the "what do you want to be when you grow up?" question years ago. The most common reason for ditching a dream career path, for both men and women, was that the respondent became interested in something else as he or she got older. Just because you wanted to be an astronaut when you grew up doesn't mean that you won't find practicing medicine fascinating -- and fulfilling -- later on.
But there's a bit of regret in these numbers, too. U.S. women (40 percent) were more likely to still dream of their dream careers than men (33.3 percent). Since being unfulfilled in a career is one reason that people of both genders wind up stepping off the gas, this greater tendency of women to abandon their dream careers doesn't necessarily bode well for equal participation in all levels of professional achievement in the future.
Why do you think women are more likely to ditch their dream career paths?Image courtesy flickr user Ross Catrow