Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is the work force supposed to accommodate feminist whims?

The other day, I read an article in a financial section of an Israeli newspaper directed at religious readers. The article talked about the "glass ceiling", and some religious businesswomen told about their experiences and perceptions. I take a real issue with a few things that they said, such as (translation from Hebrew – mine):

"The work force must understand the unique potential of women, and create a cultural change within it that will allow women to advance and fulfill their personal potential."

The truth is that no one out there owes you anything; no one has to "understand your uniqueness". As an employee in a competitive world, it's up to you to prove your value.

"The feminine sand clock is running out and cannot be turned back; a woman who misses out on the years when her children are young can never bring them back again." (So far, I completely agree) "The work force, though, must make a change of attitude, which must allow the turning back of that sand clock, and let women start anew at the age of 40. Then, when most of this woman's children are not so little anymore, and she can work the same hours as men, the job market must open the way for her, in contrast to the situation today."

So, basically, the attitude is as following: I will spend my 20 or so years of utmost vitality dedicating all or most of my time to my children (so far, so good), and then, at the age of 40 and beyond, the work force must be waiting to embrace me with open arms, despite the fact that there are many younger, ambitious candidates with fresher educations. Does that make sense? Not in a competitive world.

Sorry, ladies, but it doesn't work like that. As an employer, I probably wouldn't favor a 40-something woman with little to no work experience. Sure, if I interviewed her and thought she can be a valuable employee, I would hire her (though if I opted for someone with little experience, I probably would at least want them to be young and eager). But I certainly wouldn't see myself obligated to cater to her wishes and life goals, or to adjust myself to her biological clock. And if someone passed a legislation trying to force me to do just that, I would see it as extremely unfair and hindering the productivity of my business. Equality means everybody has a chance to prove themselves; what you ladies are talking about is mollycoddling.

Today, women have equality of opportunities. No one will deny them access to higher education, even in traditionally masculine fields; no one is supposed to refuse to interview them for jobs because they are women. But beyond that, ladies, you have to prove yourselves. And if you realize you are missing out on things along the way (like the precious years at home with your babies), then it's you who must reevaluate your priorities, not the rest of the world.

It goes without saying that I think it's extremely unfair a woman in her forties must feel pressured to go out and compete with fresh college graduates. I also believe the notion that a woman isn't needed at home after her children are out of babyhood is a completely false one. If home is the right place for mothers, it's beyond a doubt the best place for grandmothers as well. The logical next step of life for a mother of grown children wouldn't be to dive into full-time work in a competitive corporate world, but rather, to pursue creative outlets in her home, things she was unable to dedicate her time to when her children were younger. She will also have more time to open up the doors of her home to others, spend time with her older children, and serve in her community. If her husband is a few years older than her, he might be approaching retirement, or at least able to slow down at work, which will enable them to spend time and do various projects together as a couple. A mother of older children certainly isn't idle – she is simply beginning a less frenzied but equally exciting period in her life.

Of course, if you happen to be homeschooling and had your last baby at 40 years old, you will be kept very busy until retirement age anyway!

An even more "brilliant" feminist notion mentioned was that men should be mandatorily sent home early, so that they won't be able to pull longer hours, therefore favorably competing with mothers who hurry home to their children. Ladies, you are certainly determined to make logic and reason bend to your plans, rather than the other way around, aren't you? "I don't want to put in long hours, but I don't want anyone competing with me either; therefore, those who are able to do more work shouldn't be allowed to because it just wouldn't be fair!"

My mother is an engineer. She spent most of her working years in the USSR, a country that is no longer on the map. In the USSR, salaries for engineers (indeed, almost for everyone) were very low, and it virtually didn't matter whether you worked harder or for longer hours than your peers. Of course, this didn't make people want to work hard. It made them want to slack off. Did this principle of "equality" provide a better economical model? No. It simply didn't work. Healthy, real-life competition is a cornerstone of good economics.

Finally, let's not forget those hard-working men who put in long hours without complaining. Some do that because they are competitive by nature and want to be on top of things. Others do it because it's simply the only way to survive in the field they happen to be in. Does it come at an expense of time they could have been spending at home with their wife and children? Certainly. But they do what needs to be done to provide for their families, without demanding that everyone else do back flips in order to accommodate their preferences. They also don't get all that hype about "fulfilling your potential"; most men work because they have to work and that's it. Working has always been hard, ever since it was defined in the Bible as a curse of "toiling by the sweat of your brow". It's only the feminists that want to try and make us forget it. 

31 comments:

Emilie said...

Very good post! I've thought this for a long time - feminism has developed from seeking equality, to seeking preferential treatment. Thanks for the article.

Anonymous said...

Brava, Anna! The article you shared with us shows the pathologically self-centered core of feminism. How bizarre that they actually want the world to revolve around them and their biological clocks! Apparently, they think "woman" is the measure of all things. Poor dears.

Beth

Sharon said...

My only hesitation about your article is that many, many good women, through no fault of their own, become single mothers. Many a woman (at least, here in the US) would be happy to stay at home with her little ones, but when she unexpectedly finds herself a single mother with no income, she can only hope that some employer will be willing to overlook her lack of experience, work with her schedule, be patient when she has ill children to deal with, etc. etc.

Of course, ideally, a woman in such a situation will have a family and church who are willing to provide for her so that she can stay at home (as mine have), but in this day and age when stay-at-home moms are not valued, most would expect and assume that a mom in that situation would "get back to work" as quickly as possible (and many would berate her for having given up her job in the first place, leaving herself in such a vulnerable position of dependency upon a man).

So yes, I hope that at least a few employers out there are willing to "mollycoddle" those mothers who have no choice but to work, giving them a chance to start anew in the workplace.

Kate said...

HUGE AMEN!!

Laura said...

I don't know. If I read something like that in a business paper, I would assume they were talking from a business perspective rather than a social one.

I would imagine what they meant was, if you believe people have natural aptitude for their work, then half of the people who would do best in any given job might be women. It would be a waste to fire and re-hire untalented youths, if you could find one older woman who could do the job better. The top half of women should outperform even the bottom half of men, and it is unusual to work at a job for more than about 20 years anyway, so women over 40 wouldn't have that much disadvantage anyway. I imagine the article wanted business men not to immediately say no to hiring a woman who would otherwise be the best at something.



Also, I guess that from an economic perspective the more work that can be done by EVERYONE in the economy by a whole makes the country more successful. They might think that older women are a labor pool that is being wasted. For example Walmart in the US hires a lot of more elderly people who might not have many resources, so they would be willing to work doing not-demanding jobs for low pay on a part time basis.

If business men could figure out a way to utilize older women, they might not have to depend on younger workers who would not otherwise do a "dead end" job because of wanting opportunities for the future. Many people might not think of hiring an older women for these jobs, or they might just believe women should not work with men at all, or that ALL they can do is raise children. This might cost them in the long run.

Rebekka said...

Excellent post!

Anonymous said...

Great post!
And this has nothing to do with the post at all, but you were in my dream last night. I don't remember a lot of it (it was a dream) but in it we were good friends. As I live across the world and only know about you from your blog, how weird is that??
Kristin

K said...

Well said Anna. I've been so annoyed for years how feminist groups say I waste my time at home, when I should be out working, but then they fight to force employers to cater to women in the work place. Here in the US they frequently mention that every employer should provide low cost or no cost day care for their female employees. Absurd.

Anonymous said...

Anna,
I haven't read the whole article you refer to, so I won't comment on it.

But feminists come at issues of economic policy and work from very different angles, and there would be feminists who would strongly disagree with the bits of the article that you have posted. Some feminists would,in fact, point out some of the same dangers that you have pointed out, such as the lack of work experience of a woman who started working only at 40.

flacius1551 said...

I don't think the economy is under obligation to anyone, but I wonder if you'll find it so easy to conclude, when you yourself are closer to 40, that a person with so much life experience and so many management skills as a stay-at-home mom with no more children at home for whatever reason doesn't have as much or more to offer an employer as someone with the ink drying on a diploma.

My mother was in this situation when she was 50. Her children were out of the house. Neither my father nor she saw any reason for her to stay at home any longer, and she was eager for the occupation and diversion that working outside their home would bring. Though she had years of management experience (not just as a homemaker and parent, but also in volunteer positions with religious and community charities) she started off at the bottom of the pay scale as an administrative assistant. But she rose very quickly because she simply had a maturity and a calmness born of experience that no 20 year old can bring to the table. She's 69 now, and her boss just this year gave her a 20% raise and offered to pay for her to take some management classes at the local university if she wanted to move into the ranks of lower management.

Older women have a lot of skills that the job market can use. A smart employer will realize this.

messy bessy said...

What I object to about the article you mention is the way it denies reality. In reality, when you choose one way of life, that necessarily excludes another. If I choose full-time motherhood, that excludes keeping my skills and experience current in the job market. If employers want to be competitive, they must hire the people who can do the best work, not the people who may most need a job.

We cannot have it all. Feminism, which began so long ago with a laudable desire to correct some of the most flagrant injustices to women (not being admitted to higher education, for example)turned into this weird "level the playing field" worldview. As if just by force of will we can make it so that people can choose to follow any pathway they want but then have a "do-over" when they desire some other path.

Life doesn't work that way. Reality isn't that way. And yet we see this feminist will to reshape reality everywhere. Another great example is divorce. Wouldn't it be great if when you made a mistake in who you married you could just get out of it and start again, with no repercussions? Well, you can't. Divorce isn't good for children, it isn't good for men, and it isn't good for society as a whole, but feminists have decided that they will simply WILL it to be good, and call it good, and therefore it IS good!

I think your example of the USSR is such a good one. Reality shows us that when people don't see any financial or material benefit to working harder, they very often won't work harder. Yet the Communists simply refused to believe in reality, simply willing it to be otherwise, and look at the tragedy that resulted.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Flacius, your mother started at the bottom, proved her self-worth and advanced. She didn't demand that the employer would immediately bend over backwards to accommodate her life choices. The feminists, however, are demanding just that.

Anonymous said...

Ha! The feminists are starting to wake up and scratch their heads, saying, "What a minute! We want in on this mothering thing, too... But how will we fit that in with the careers and degrees we've spent countless years aspiring for? It must be the evil system of the workforce! Yes..! That's it! That evil system is what has been keeping us from having everything we DESERVE. We'll just change it to accomodate us." Are they honestly suggesting the work force system should bend to their every little need? Like, seriously? It's oddly reminiscent of listening to the arguements of a spoiled, over-indulged 12-year-old.

Katy said...

All of this is so confusing and sad. It seems no matter what a woman does there is always someone to say that it is not right...that she is not right. If a woman works outside the home then she is selfish, un-Godly, not attached to her children, neglecting her family...all kinds of things. However, if a woman does stay at home with her children and finds herself widowed or divorced than a potential employer is likely to find her old and inexperienced...not like some fresh pup with a degree that says she is intelligent. At the end of the day I suppose we must make piece with our God, our families and ourselves...because it certainly does not seem like we can please anyone else...no matter what choices we make or are forced into.

honeyfromflintyrocks said...

An excellent post. This is the very
"upside down" thinking that many young people in the US have when it comes to work. They don't want to have to start at the bottom and grouse at the notion that the employer doesn't automatically see how wonderful they are. When the reality is that they need to prove their worth to the company!

One tiny bit of digression... that has nothing to do with feminists or work. The bible does not define work as a curse. Adam was charged with work prior to the fall. The curse for him is now his work will be 'by the sweat of his brow'. Adam, by his sin, made his own work - given to him by God - much harder. Every time we go to weed our vegetable gardens we can thank Adam!
Blessings,
~Mrs. R

Anonymous said...

What kinds of jobs, I wonder, are being discussed? Professional careers, such as physicians, clergywomen musicians, nurses, teachers, dietitians, or tradeswomen such as plumbers, electricians, or civil service and semi-skilled office workers? Each of these jobs usually have openings for experienced and entry-level positions, if the proper prerequisite training and education have been met through courses at university, trade school, or local colleges. Since the US is in a recession right now, and jobs are scarce, there is intense competition, and the most qualified of applicants can be considered to have an advantage over other others.

In my family, if my husband took care of our sons until they passed into young adulthood, I would expect some accommodations and transitioning period by employers on his return to the workforce.

I'm sorry that I don't follow the intent of the example of the woman engineer in the USSR, as my husband's background is more like that of China where there is/was a form of communism. His parents worked very hard as farmers and entrepreneurs and came from families of modest means, high intellectual standards, and were not depressed by the subjugation of fellow citizens.

Table Poetry said...

I haven't read the article you're referring to.

I've never ever heard women ask for men's time at work to be limited; I doubt that's a common view. It's true that women often suffer in career promotion because they don't like to do overtime, but that's a choice they make. Life is all about choices.

Employers do need to make some concessions to family life. Employers are part of society, and they are bound by rules made so our society can function well. For example, I do think both men and women should be given sick days off for their children, (as they are in Israel), for children are our future and we are all in this together. It goes without saying that I believe in maternity leave for the same reason - business and society are intertwined.

But I think women have to compete with men on an equal playing field when it comes to getting jobs. Life is a matter of priorities. If you choose to spend a decade or two raising kids instead of building a career, you will probably never be CEO. C'est la vie.

On the other hand, in today's world people don't usually stay in the same position or the same company more than a few years. There's a lot more career mobility, and a 40 yr old woman with an education is not as useless and archaic in the career world as she was in the 80s. There are still options for her; there are employers that will hire her with no affirmative action.

In short, I think women can reintegrate into the workforce without special concessions. It may not be easy, and their wages may not be high, but that is the price they have to pay for spending years at home.
I do agree with you that it's not necessarily fair to expect a woman who is nearing retirement (say, late 40s, early 50s) to have to start from the bottom rung on the career ladder. It should be more acceptable for those who stay home to stay home long term. But what usually happens is that older women suddenly realize finances are not so good, the kids are no longer at home, and her income is sorely needed so the couple can age gracefully. And when she looks for a job, she pays for all those years at home. She is entry-level at the age of 40 or 50. Not fun.

Stacey said...

Well said, Anna. It seems to me the feminist agenda is very much "have your cake and eat it too." And it also seems that the feminists want exactly what they DON'T want their male counterparts to have. Now how is that fair?

A woman, whether with grown children, or with no children, can still find fulfillment at home, being a wife and homemaker. Work is good. And there is plenty of it at home, especially if one takes the time to do all the little things that actually DO matter in the long run.

As always, a thought-provoking (and brave) post, counter to the culture, which has gone completely nuts anyway! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great Post!

Rachelle

Homemakers Cottage said...

Well said, Anna. Femininist claim that they want to be "equal to" men, but it seems like they are asking for favors instead. More proof that it's a farce that working women can "have it all"- homelife AND a career. ~Kristy @ Homemaker's Cottage

Marytoo said...

A variation on this is a pregnant woman in a physically demanding job expecting concessions from everyone at her work. For example, however you may feel about women being soldiers, firefighters, police officers, etc, many women do these jobs.

In the past, a woman in one of these positions (though they were rare) who became pregnant automatically quit. But no more.

Now they are retained at full pay and benefits, but put on "light duty." This means that they basically sit around and do busy work while their male and non-pregnant female colleagues step up and take up their slack.

In my opinion, that is just plain wrong. Why should other people have to do their jobs while they get paid not to do them? People make choices when they enter careers, and they make choices when they decide to have children. It is not the employer's or the colleagues' business to facilitate that.

Blue said...

I agree with Katy. Women are so easily scorned, corrected, put in our place.

I disagree that women seek "special accommodations" in the workplace, which is structured in a way that assumes that people who do not bear and deliver children are doing the work. In that environment, it may be that it *appears* that women seek "special accommodations" by virtue of having a uterus, but that is just optical. The reality is that people (not just women) seek for the workplace baseline, or default, to reflect that both children-bearing and non-children-bearing workers are present. In other words, that workers are *humans*, of both genders.

I agree with Table Poetry that employers in fact do need to make some concessions to family life. European legislators have recognized this for decades. Employers are part of society, and they are bound by rules made so our society - all members, not just men - can function well.

An equal playing field is one that acknowledges men and women for who they are. What you call "special accommodations" I call "a playing field that is dual-gender."

Shinseiko said...

Some women, though, truly love that competition, and work long hours out of dedication to their fields. Competition drives my existence and is the motivation of my soul.

My best friend attended Oxford for her Master's Degree, her husband attended Cambridge. She works as a grant writer for an international humanitarian organization and loves her career from the bottom of her heart. The extra hours she puts in are not losses - they are gains, as she would prefer not to be doing anything else. Not all of us ladies feel pressured by the corporate world; we DO feel challenged, rewarded and fulfilled by it.

Another thing that may have been overlooked in your article is the fact that these nameless "employers" may very well BE women. The leader of my organization is a woman, and so are between 50-60% of the leaders and managers in my organization. They weren't pressured to be there; they thrive there.

Pendragon said...

Blue's comment is right on the money!

Frankly, I think that it makes excellent business sense to hire women who re-enter the work force in their 40s after staying home with their kids. It is not so much that women have "unique" potential, but that there is an untapped potential among those women who wish to return to work in mid-life. I would rather hire a mature 40 year old who knows what she wants than a 25 year old who is still trying to figure out life. Such women are often hungry for the work and eager to prove themselves.

Life is extremely long, and people are staying healthier longer and working longer. There is no good reason a woman who has stayed home can't build a solid career starting at 40, if she chooses. I think business culture SHOULD be open to that fact. It's win-win all the way around.

Leah Brand-Burks said...

Tough stance, Anna--I love it!

Mrs. Anna T said...

"Frankly, I think that it makes excellent business sense to hire women who re-enter the work force in their 40s after staying home with their kids."

Perhaps; what I'm saying is simply that this is up to the employer to decide. No one owes anyone anything in the work world.

Marytoo said...

Shinseko, those women you describe make that choice, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Pendragon, I agree with you as well. Women in their 40's or even older with a wealth of experience and good judgment would be an asset to any employer.

I believe the point being made is that each woman makes her own choices and is prepared to take the bad consequences along with the good consequences.

Hil said...

What time period are you living in? Most households can't afford to live on one paycheque alone anymore. It's interesting that the feminist backlash is often based on the erroneous premise that feminism a bourgoise, middle to upper class movement. But the only people who can afford to be "anti-feminist" are the ones who inhabit the socio-economic group.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Hil,

Though many people believe it's "impossible" to live on one paycheck alone, me and many of my readers are doing just that.

And quite a small paycheck it is.

Middle to upper class? I wish!

Our secret is, we are doing without things we supposedly "can't" do without. We cook economically, we hardly ever buy any new clothes, we think twice before making a drive or a phone call, our entertainment budget is zero, we don't go on expensive leisure trips and instead learn creative ways to have fun, we cut our hair at home, we swap, we receive hand-me-downs, we go without air conditioning even on the hottest days, we save bath water for the garden, we line dry our clothes... I think you get the gist.

No, things aren't always easy.

But we're challenged and rewarded.

I could ramble on and on, but time and space don't permit.

Jo said...

Certainly where I work, people are employed based on their skills and qualifications, if you are 40 and female and do not have the skills and the skills are required then you would not get the job. If the article is referring to women working part hours etc.. then I have no problems if this is also offered to men as well.

Not all women are earning "pocket money" I earn the same as my husband and I wish to be treat equally to my male employees and not differently. Most feminists (and I am not one) would not want women to be treated any other way but equal.

Not all single mothers are there by choice and has nothing to do with the feminist movement - and don't forget the widows.

Anonymous said...

I can see I'm late to this discussion. I will, nevertheless, put in my piece.

I'm reminded of the story "The Fisherman & His Wife". Are any of you familiar with it? A magical fish grants the requests of a man (actually, they are the wife's...she tells her husband what to ask the fish for), & each time the request is granted. The story begins with the couple living in a little hut, & moves on through a comfortable bigger home with a nice yard, to a castle with expensive furnishings, to the wife becoming queen of the land, then pope, & then....she tells her husband to ask the fish to give her the power over the sun & moon. At this the fish says, "Go home to your hut again."

One of your visitors here, Anna, remarked that some of the earlier achievements of the feminist movement corrected some rather serious wrongs, such as women being barred from higher education & so forth. I agree with this. She (your commenter) went on to say that what we have now is some strange "level the playing field" worldview. Again, I agree.

Ladies!....feminist thinking is going to take us back to "the hut". Much (even most) of it has been hurtful; an attempt to twist logic to fit whim, the results of which will be even worse than we experience right now.

A fine post, Anna.

Brenda