As if having to work to survive were a choice

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8 comments posted
Reality in the work place

Corporate America and other segments of the political landscape say they value the family and women and babies. A woman can have it all. Now all we need is a 37-hour day and we're set.

What I see is when a woman has been out of the corporate track for a while, or if she has followed a mate around the country in a two career family, or there are gaps when she was care for the kids, these "lapses" go against her.

Corporations are bottom line oriented. They are run by tough managers whose jobs depend on performance.

Two candidates appear for a job. Both have impressive credentials. One had 20 years of uninterrupted work experience - a man. The other has a more checked resume where compromises were made in anticipation of the unveiling of the 37-hour day.

Who gets the job?

Well, the "most qualified" one.

Seriously, and all politics aside as to what should be right, who is the more qualified? Twenty years uninterrupted experience, or 13 years with gaps?

Even though questions such as "what for of birth control do you use," or "what if you become pregnant" are now off limits, the result is the same.

And in my experience, the smaller start-up firms are much better at dealing with this sort of resume than the large firms with slick ads about how they are for diversity and equality. They are for equality. Two equally qualified people - one who has not been pregnant and one who has, the one who has not been is the one who gets ahead.

This is a tough thing to get across to a daughter no matter how much we celebrate and encourage her - even to a fault.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 3 August 2005 - 6:58am
I question the assumption

I question the assumption that uninterrupted work history makes someone a better employee. What if men and women both took time off from work here and there to raise kids, take care of parents, travel, go back to school, write a novel? What if we dropped our ridiculous cultural expectation that people should work uninterrupted from the day after college graduation to the age of retirement?

I think corporations would discover that extra-curricular breaks in career often make someone a BETTER employee when they return to the job market. The benefits of such things as travel and education are obvious, but even childcare can teach you great patience and people management skills. What if corporations did some research on the value of it before dismissing it as "not a job and therefore a worthless pursuit"?

BetaCandy's picture
Posted by BetaCandy on 5 August 2005 - 1:10pm
People are hired for other reasons

Sometimes it's the psychology report. Or the credit report. Or the criminal background check.

But I think a lot of managers don't like the idea of hiring anyone who has a life with other priorities. They want someone totally beholded to them.

It's stupid, but aside from the corporatocrats, who says American corporations are models of effective business management?

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 5 August 2005 - 1:20pm
It's silly, but there you are

I agree with BetaCandy and Media Girl. Corporations ought to be more enlightened. True faith and alligiance is everything and any activity that is not in keeping with that is viewed with suspicion.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 6 August 2005 - 7:30am
Free-market solutions

I've seen a few interesting phenomena:

1) While I was studying for the bar and when my SO was studying for the GMAT, we noticed that a local coffee shop hosted a group of expectant and recent mothers who met daily or weekly. These expectant and recent mothers, from what we could tell, were lawyers, businesswomen, and other professionals, and despite their absence from the workforce, they were still networking. I assume this behavior has been replicated across the country. Could this morph into a good ol' girl network that can transform the workplace in the next generation?

2) Every so often, I read about a woman who, when she cannot find a satisfactory job after returning to the workforce after an absence for family reasons, instead starts her own business. Could these businesses, in the long term, become truly family-friendly workplaces?

3) The husband of my SO's former workplace supervisor is a stay-at-home father, and I understand that the ranks of stay-at-home fathers are growing. In the long term, does this mean that stereotypical gender roles can be laid to rest?

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 6 August 2005 - 7:59am
Not sure if it's just roles

What we have with corporate America is a culture that values what the "traditional male" could offer -- years and years of uninterrupted service, working overtime and weekends if necessary.

Add in family time and corporate America is not happy. I don't think a stay at home dad is going to have an easy time of finding work after missing 5+ years of career time. But it's nothing compared with a woman who's trying to return to the workforce.

It's almost as if mothers are seen as unable to have careers. It's ironic, since most of the successful women in their 50s and 60s are indeed mothers. Yet this closed-mindedness towards women who've previously taken themselves off of the tracks persists. They want the woman to throw herself on the tracks.

There's also the problem of women who are not sex objects tending to be invisible. And women who have sex appeal are not taken seriously. You can't win for losing. A lot of that is just that it's all new. Condi had to take all the talk about her boots because nobody in that role had done that before. But will the next female Secretary of State under 45 receive the same scrutiny? Probably not.

It's telling that Condi did not break the race barrier for this cabinet position, and we did not hear much racial contexting of her appointment. But she did break a barrier that Madeleine Albright did not -- the young woman barrier.

Rather than confront these attitudes, a lot of women do end up starting up their own businesses. They do it out of disgust with the corporate culture, distaste for the macho competitiveness of the business world, frustration at the kinds of jobs they are getting offered, and desperation because a glowing resume does not seem to outweigh age bias in human resources departments.

Personally I think that many men find age 40+ women intimidating -- especially if they are well qualified women. And to be honest, many young women just cannot relate to "older" women. The generation gaps do cross gender lines.

Online is where we see a real difference there. Our ages become less important and who we are and what we say and believe count for a lot more.

I'd like to be optimistic about the future, but right now, in this political climate, where US Senators, Congresspersons and executive branch leaders are openly calling for the enslavement of women, openly blaming feminists for all the woes we face, and openly calling for a patriarchal theocracy -- a Christian-branded Taliban -- I cannot feel more than cautious hope that cultural evolution through generations will improve things.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 6 August 2005 - 11:22am
Battlestar Galactica

What the frack does Battlestar Galactica have to do with this thread?

We'll I had a surprisingly emotional reaction to last night's episode of Battlestar Galactica

I also had an emotional reaction to the film "Courage Under Fire."

Will men be led by woman.

I suppose officers get fragged (assassinated by their own troops) more than is admitted, but a third of the Union Officers in the American Civil War were shot in the back - often attributed to the unbelievable fire fights the two sides engaged in.

Yet women remain tokens or in the shadow of men.

A nation that will not allow its women to fight in combat does not believe a woman is qualified to led troops and the job of the Commander-in-Chief will be one that will remain "men only."

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 6 August 2005 - 11:54am
Generation COBOL

Your reference to the generation gap reminds me of Y2K -- when a number of COBOL programmers, long put out to pasture (often at the local Radio Shack) were suddenly recalled to service because they were the only people who knew how to rewrite those old non-Y2K compliant programs.

But that's neither here nor there. I do think there's an element of intimidation/fear in there. God knows that in the workplace, I react differently to, say, a 25-year-old woman than to a 50-year-old woman. Discriminatory? Perhaps. Wrong? Perhaps. But for whatever reason, that's how a lot of people react.

Back to the subject, though. I do think that in the long run, the woman-owned businesses are going to be the great equalizers. If women who have left the workforce for years are truly as qualified as individuals (such as non-childbearing men) who stayed in the workforce, then those who decline to hire "mommy track" graduates will sit up and take notice when these small, women-owned firms steal their customers.

--|PW|--

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 6 August 2005 - 1:01pm