Monday, September 01, 2008

Are you a woman in your 20s or 30s? Read this


This opinion piece is not on the topic of food or eating, but this is a crucial and compelling subject, and one that every woman (and man) in America today should read. Especially those of you who think feminism was what your parents and grandparents did, and you're the new post-feminist generation. :-) There is still work to be done, my friends.

10 comments:

Lise said...

What she speaks about in the article is very true, also here in Norway. I'm researching issues with women's access to management positions in my Masters, and women in general still have problems with doing careers.

Miss said...

Very good article. I do wonder how she recommends one finds out about whether a potential workplace is more female-friendly though-- I don't know what sort of questions I would ask to find that out, and it's not always something one can just Google on one's own.

ciocia said...

"Girl power" is a big commodity in college, because all that is passed out is grades: if you do the work, you get the good grade. In the work world, money and power are what is passed out. These are scarce, real resources, not like the Monopoly money of grades, and they do not necessarily go to people who simple deserve them. They go to people who make their value known and DEMAND them. Women have to learn to negotiate their salaries, take credit for their contributions, and move on when they aren't being treated right. A clerk in Wal Mart might not have that kind of clout, but a woman with a couple of degrees better see what she can do for herself. And, above all, APPLY FOR positions, even if your not overqualified. I've seen women not even apply for good stuff, and watch a less qualified man get it, because HE ASKED.

Legislation and group action can only do so much. Women are so afraid of being not liked that they don't fight for themselves. Is fighting for yourself dangerous? Yes, but it's the only way stuff gets done.

Jill said...

If the NY Times article draws your interest, as it likely should :), there is an excellent book about the research done on these topics: Women Don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation -- and Postitive Strategies for Change. Reading this book brought some understanding to me (a woman) about the bewildering sense of entitlement almost all of the men around me (and all of the successful men around me) seemed to take for granted and that I never had. Best of all, the book is based on actual research.

I have no connections with the authors, so I'm not a shill, just a reader who saw things after reading the book that she couldn't see before. I think highly of the article, and if you want to go deeper, I highly recommend this book.

Anonymous said...

Wow, work is hell. Unfortunately my attempts to become an insensitive braggart have been entirely without success (amazingly, it makes people think I'm a jerk!), so I guess I should just live in my parents' figurative basement.

Katy said...

What I came away with after reading this is that the work world isn't actually any different from the academic world--it's just not as subtle. Where do guys get these negotiating/networking skills, this confidence, this entitlement, that women seem to lack? It doesn't just appear when they leave school--somewhere in the first 20-some years of their lives it was nurtured/encouraged in them in a way it wasn't for their female counterparts.

I'm a couple years younger than the author of this article, and my experience has NEVER been that school is an egalitarian, post-feminist environment. I'm sure it's a lot better than it used to be & I know plenty of women who achieved like crazy and were well respected by teachers and students alike. But it wasn't all "girl-power" in my universe, and I lived in a progressive, well-off community where opportunity abounds. The smart girls were often seen, and characterized, as "hard workers" whereas the boys were "brilliant slackers." Smart guys could screw around or mouth off in class and still be taken seriously, but as a girl if you weren't well behaved and put together, your intelligence might well disappear. In my class of 1000, we had 4 valedictorians, and I can guarantee you they all did the same thing every night--went home and studied their brains out nonstop. But the two guys were seen as freakishly smart and the two girls as freakishly organized and hard-working. My guy friends had a sense of entitlement I did not, even then. I had a male friend who was ranked 15% lower in our class than I was; we were both rejected from our first choice Ivy League schools. He felt as though he'd been horribly ripped off and walked around with a chip on his shoulder for 4 full years, and people AGREED with him. (People actually said it was because he was a Christian white guy, and so how the hell was he supposed to stand out? And no one criticized this BS.) I expected it and people sympathized with me. No one told me that it was because ~60% of applicants to colleges now are female and I got screwed by that. (Which I don't believe. Plus I transferred there anyway. ;-))

I think that our society expects guys to do well academically/career-wise, and they soak that up unconsciously and that builds that sense of entitlement. I think it's telling that, as girls have begun to achieve on par with or better than boys in school, there is suddenly a "boy crisis," with people crying that schools are designed around female learning styles, there aren't enough male teachers as role models, etc. No one says that perhaps boys are simply less intelligent or not as good at academics--NOT THAT I FOR A SECOND BELIEVE THAT, nor that I think anyone SHOULD say it, but if the roles were reversed, I can guarantee that that statement would have been made. It's assumed that males will be smart & successful as a given; females are treated as though we have to "prove it." Even the way this article looked at the issue got under my skin a bit--she makes some good points, and I think being your own advocate, not letting assholes get to you & asking for feedback are all terrific pieces of advice for anyone. Yet, it bothers me that women are still being told we need to act more like men to succeed. Why isn't anyone saying that maybe the work world needs to be more open to more feminine ways of interacting--maybe some of these traits are actually, um, valuable?!

Anyway...that's just my 2 cents. (Okay, at this length, more like 20 bucks!)

Harriet said...

Brava, Katy. You've really put your finger on some important things. I observed the very same things in my 17-y.-o. daughter's life--she works extremely hard and is often praised for being "organized." Ugh. And she's come out of the situation feeling like she's not quite smart enough, which pisses me off.

The reason I linked to this story, though, was to remind all of us women that the work world is the way it is, FOR NOW, and that WE have to be smart and strategic about the way we go about succeeding in it. Then we can work to bring about change. But for starters we have to play it the way it is, or we won't get to play at all--at least in the mainstream world.

Lise said...

What bugs me is the patriarchal structure of organisations. And that it is we, women, who have to adapt rather than making structural changes that would better accomodate women's lives.

Becky said...

The smart girls were often seen, and characterized, as "hard workers" whereas the boys were "brilliant slackers."

Yes! Nobody could have called me organized, heh, but I definately got: "Becky isn't that smart, she just works really hard". First of all... I should be ashamed that I work hard? Secondly, I was so that smart, but it just fucking killed this guy that not only were there people out there smarter than him, some of them were girls. I also got: "Such and such professor just likes you because you're a girl." Ummm, maybe he likes me because I show up to class, pay attention, take an interest in the material, and generally treat him with respect? Try it sometime. Then again... those were traditionally male disciplines (science and engineering). Maybe humanities are more woman friendly.

I agree that it's irritating that women are expected to be the ones to change... maybe men should be more sensitive instead of women being less so?

Anonymous said...

"Yet, it bothers me that women are still being told we need to act more like men to succeed. Why isn't anyone saying that maybe the work world needs to be more open to more feminine ways of interacting--maybe some of these traits are actually, um, valuable?!"

Giving Katy's post, and this part in particular, a standing ovation. Why do we have to be the ones to change? Having said that, I am currently making a shift in my working life to a career path where I can be my feminine self because I'm tired of being something I'm not.