Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘World Economic Forum’

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and I spent it wondering how to write about it–without sounding like I’d been body-snatched by Debbie Downer.

(Why? Well, I’m not especially interested in beating a dead horse, but by now you know the score: we’re paid less and underrepresented. Child care and health care are dismal. Our ranking in the World Economic Forum’s international gender equality ratings is an appalling 31st. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but did you hear a single peep about it being International Women’s Day? Did you know that in China, Russia, Vietnam, and Bulgaria, IWD is a HOLIDAY? I wouldn’t have minded sleeping in. After all, sleep is a feminist issue!)

I think more than the inequities that still exist, though, what bothers me is the denial. The feeling that: We don’t need a Women’s Day in the United States! The women’s movement? Been there, done that! Equality? We’re so there. Because, obviously, we’re not. Consider this, from a HuffPo piece written by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and executive director of Momsrising.org:

A friend called me today, sharing her delight that her 10 year-old daughter came down to breakfast and wished her a “Happy International Women’s Day!” We wondered how her daughter knew about this important day without her mom telling her, and shared some happy thoughts about our strong, growing, young daughters.

Then the conversation turned: We simultaneously realized that both of our daughters think of International Women’s Day as something we celebrate for women in other countries, not our own.

We wondered, why?

My friend thinks it’s because: “There’s a real disconnect between our desire as parents to tell our girls that they can do anything they want to do in life, and the reality of the challenges that they will later face as women in our own nation.”

This disconnect isn’t unique to my friend and her daughter, it’s a disconnect that we see with policy makers, news reporters, and business leaders as they fail to recognize inequality that women still face in the United States.

The problem is that without recognition, we can’t get to solutions. And solutions are indeed needed.

They are indeed–and, as we’ve mentioned oh, once or twice before, it seems to me that the way in which we frame the issues for which solutions are needed is precisely why there aren’t any. We make them personal (find your own work-life balance much? make time for sleep? follow this man’s three steps to happiness?), and in doing so, we lighten the load, trivialize the deeper issues, and take the burdens off the institutions and put them squarely onto our own backs.

Oh, it was a sad sight. Eating toast (toast! the world’s perfect food!) on the morn of the 100th International Women’s Day, Debbie Downer was threatening to have me for breakfast. (Even despite the fact that, the night before, Kathryn Bigelow had just scored the Oscar’s top two honors–becoming the first female to be named Best Director. The only one… In 82 years… Ack! Do you see how Debbie does it?) But then, a ray of sunlight, in the form of a tweet from Hollee Temple. She thought I’d like the guest post on her blog. And guess what? I did!

First, the intro:

Today we welcome Lisa Tannenbaum to our blog to discuss how she remodeled her job to fit her notions of motherhood — and managed to get promoted with her job-sharing partner. Inspiring!

And inspiring it is. For several reasons. Here’s a taste:

Both Sandy (Tannenbaum’s job-sharing other half) and I have young children; we wanted to maintain our careers with Deloitte, a company to which we are very loyal and from which we have felt that loyalty returned. Deloitte is consistently recognized as a fantastic work environment for women, initiating many creative and innovative work/life balance programs, many of which have become the industry standard… Since we began this endeavor [in 2004], we have become an internal role model for how people can be successful, and even continue to progress, in their careers with such an arrangement.

Did you say “progress”?

There were certainly skeptics… questions about whether our arrangement worked efficiently on all levels. At one point, we actually believed that this job-share may have been a roadblock in our ability to advance. Rather than abandoning the concept, we coordinated our resumes together, posted for jobs together, and even interviewed together. It took a very strong and proven performance history, respected advocates, and finally, as with any workplace innovation, a leap of faith from leaders at Deloitte, but, alas, the answer was ultimately that we could move up the hierarchy–together!

We were promoted in our job-share arrangement to a managerial position. Six months into this new role, things are going very well as we continue to prove ourselves capable of efficiency, imagination, leadership, and teamwork on a daily basis. Trailblazing this arrangement together to a new group of leaders, learning the unique skill set of job-share management, and creating a path for the next generation of career-oriented mothers in the organization is wildly exciting and fulfilling–both as an employee of Deloitte AND as a mom.

Consider Debbie down for the count! And consider this my wish for you, on this very special Day After International Women’s Day: may you find personal success, and the internal strength and the external support you need to make the life you want to live possible. And may your success help to pave the way for the ladies that’ll come after you.

And may your optimism render your own personal Debbie Downer toast.

Read Full Post »

Marcus Buckingham has done it again. In this week’s HuffPo installment, Buckingham gets started by citing Time magazine’s special on the State of Women as saying that the gender war is over, and it was a tie. But Buckingham takes it one step further:

I’m not so sure. In a war, no matter the outcome of a certain skirmish or battle, the winner is the party whose attitudes, behaviors and preoccupations come to dominate the postwar landscape. By this measure, the outcome of the gender wars, if wars they were, is clear: women won.

He makes his case by saying that “men’s attitudes more and more resemble women’s attitudes”, citing the fact that fewer men now believe that men should be the breadwinners, women the caretakers, than did in 1977. He says that “men’s behaviors are becoming more and more like women’s”, using the fact that men now do more housework than they did in 1977 as evidence. He even cites popular culture:

Even our entertainment heroes have lost their masculine muscle. Arnold, Bruce, and Stallone are long gone from the screen, but even the flirty, flaky, funny adolescents–Tom, Brad, Jim, and Will–no longer charm us quite as much as they once did. Instead our leading men are the likes of Zac Efron who, though he can still “Michael Jordan” it on the court, now has to sing and dance charmingly to earn our affection.

Um, okayyyy. But here’s where it gets interesting:

The war is over. Women won. And, as ever, to the victor go the spoils.

And what are the spoils of this particular war?

The spoils are choice. Women have more choice than ever before in their work, home, and lifestyles. And yes, men are becoming more like women, and so men are starting to face the same multitude of choices that women tackle.

Today, with many companies offering paternal leave, men now have the choice to stay at home after the birth of their newborn… But they also have the choice to take advantage of this leave and stay at home wondering whether or not this absence will hurt their careers.

Men have the choice to stay at home even longer and assume the chief caregiver role… But they have to face the fact that, in making this choice, their skills might become obsolete and their wages, when they re-enter the workforce, will wind up reflecting their out-of-date proficiency.

Men have the choice to arrange their schedules so they can pick up the kids from school twice a week. And they have the choice not to, and then to feel guilty about this choice.

The choice-filled world that women have bestowed on men is a tough world. Tough on women; even tougher on men. At least that’s what the data reveal. In 1977, 41 percent of women reported feeling some level of work/life conflict, whereas only 35% of men did. Today, about the same percentage of women report work/life conflict, but 59 percent of men are now similarly torn.

Buckingham, Buckingham, Buckingham. Welcome to our world. While what he has to say about our choices is interesting (as is his use of self-reported statistics to back up his points), what’s more interesting is what he doesn’t say. Like this:

A study in the current issue of The Academy of Management Journal reveals that bosses generally perceive women workers to have more family-work conflict than men, even though this isn’t the case. And this belief, mistaken though it is, leads supervisors to take a negative view of women employees’ suitability for promotion.

Or this, from the Economix blog at the New York Times‘ web site:

In most jobs, the gap between men’s and women’s earnings narrows greatly when you adjust for factors like career path and experience. But at the top of the income scale–jobs paying more than $100,000–the salary gap between equally qualified men and women is still vast.

Or this, which Laura Liswood, co-founder of the Council of Women World Leaders, wrote yesterday:

In its annual measurement of global progress in the lives of women and girls, released October 27, 2009, the World Economic Forum reported some major improvements in surprising places. The 2009 Global Gender Gap Report–which, country by country, examines data indicating the resources and status of women compared to men–ranks Lesotho, for example, in the top 10, a marked improvement from its place at 16 last year and 43 in 2006. By contrast, the United States moved down three slots last year and now ranks 31st.

In terms of why you might be a little irritated by that, feel free to pick your poison: that the U.S. is ranked 31st, or that we moved down three slots last year. I myself am having a little of both. Liswood spells out the characteristics of our grouping thus:

Group III Gaps in these countries (including the United States and United Kingdom) have been almost completely closed in education and health; progress is occurring on economic and political participation. What is lagging is women’s presence at the highest levels of power be it management of a business or head of state or government or parliament. Countries that adopt quotas for business or politics often see an immediate jump in their standing once these mechanisms kick in.

Ooh, quotas. Scary. But why should we be so opposed? As Latoya Peterson notes in her Jezebel piece about the report:

Norway has legislation that demands all public institutions “promote gender equity, and these efforts are to be documented each year.” The top ranking country, Iceland, passed this type of legislation back in 2000 as the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women. Finland employs an “Ombudsman for Equality, the Gender Equality Unit, and the Council for Equality” in its pursuit of gender parity. And in Sweden, there is an Ombudsman on Discrimination, as well as measures taken in schools and workplaces to ensure women do not face bias.

Why should we care what goes on in Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden? They hold the top four spots in that report. The one where the U.S. ranks 31st.

Let’s read just a little more from Liswood:

Data are a necessary component to start the process of resource allocation and policy shift. Data collection alone can’t make the sea level rise, but many political and business leaders hide behind the excuse that women must ‘make the case’ for change. The case can rarely be made without information that proves what women may intuitively already know. And looking at a gender gap that has been indexed should give leaders pause if they are not fully utilizing 50 percent of their talent.

It certainly should. The thing is, if we were to proactively address the measurable inequities, like Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, then–if Buckingham’s right–everyone would stand to benefit. But where Buckingham–where the very United States–has fallen short, is in viewing it as a personal issue, an issue of behavior, or attitude, or whether Zac Ephron is cashing in at the box office… In choosing to look at such heavy decisions merely as personal dilemmas, left to each of us to handle on our own, in our own way, we are missing the point. Yes, we have choices in our lives, and it stands on each of us to make them. But they’re made harder by the lack of institutional support. The war may be over, but the battle has just begun.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 231 other followers