I recently came across Susan Pinker's ideas on behavioral and professional differences caused by gender & hormonal influences. Particularly her explanation in a recent Dutch TV documentary, on why female success (or seeming lack thereof) should be defined and measured differently, stroke a chord.
To some degrees, I myself am an example of Susan's "high achieving women [who] choose jobs that pay less or opt out at pivotal moments in their careers".
In my mid thirties, rather than continuing my thus far quite successful career, I resigned a profitable position with a prestigious organization, not for any rational reason, but because it felt like the right thing to do at the time. Since then I have foolishly turned down several interesting opportunities and started my own company, which has not been making a lot of profit so far. This is partially due to the fact that I have approached my company more as a hobby (my main task being currently that of a mother), and many of my projects represent honorary work.
Thus measured by traditional standards, in the past couple of years I have not been very successful professionally. A fact that seems to baffle my accountant, my husband, and many of my friends and colleagues.
Nevertheless, I feel that I have contributed more value to my profession and society in recent years, then when I was still receiving a lucrative salary. Indeed most of our communities could not operate without the dedication and commitment of talented individuals, many of them female, who are not driven by status or financial rewards, but humanitarian values and long-term impact. And I wonder if for myself this might not in fact be a more accurate and justified measure of success.