In 1964 the federal government of the United States passed a Civil Rights Act that forbade discrimination -- that is using double standards -- in the workplace. The idea was for all job applicants and all candidates for promotion within companies to be treated equally. The concept was excellent -- the implementation has left much to be desired. The question of whether or not the "glass ceiling" that invisible but definite barrier to the upper echelons of corporate America still exists for women and, people of color, is almost childish. The number of studies that have been done in the intervening forty years, that clearly show the continued existence of barriers to not only equal opportunity, but to equal pay for equal work, runs into the thousands. It is often said that there are none so blind as those who will not see, and this is very obvious in the general response to women in the "corner office."
There are various categories of blocks to the corporate advancement of women and one of those categories is the stereotypes of who and what women are. Women are "more emotional," as though there is something inherently wrong with emotion. Who makes this judgment -- the male dominated culture that fears expressing emotion. We live in a world that has been run for 6000 or so years by people who consider anger the only emotion "real men" are supposed and free to express. Is it any wonder we live in a world where aggressiveness and being war-like are honored? Is it any wonder that win-lose is the model all of our societies on this planet are built on? Is it any wonder that trying to mediate problems with reason and care for all sides and creating win-win solutions are considered "weak," "foolish," "unrealistic?" The list of pejorative adjectives goes on and on. In the article, "The Glass Ceiling: Are Women Where They Should Be," Stephanie Chaffins at el. says, "According to Bardwick and Douvan (1976), assertive behavior is considered more valuable because of its characteristics of objectivity, impartiality, and orientation toward problem-solving. Now, admittedly, that statement comes from thirty years ago and ideas have changed but, excuse me? How does the word assertive equate with any of those terms? An article that was originally published in the Washington Times, entitled, "Women Work Way Up in Japan; Entrepreneurial Spirit Helps Lift Ailing Economy," contains this statement, "Some local governments have begun nurturing future female entrepreneurs, who, unlike their male counterparts, tend to be more interested in seeking fulfillment in life rather than expanding their business and profits, analysts say." I'm not sure if that is supposed to be good or bad, but being fulfilled in what you are doing seems like a reasonable way to expand both the business and profits. Nevertheless, the people who would rather use the weak, foolish, means of conflict resolution are demeaned and kept out of positions where they can effectively put their notions into practice. Yet, these same people run most of the most prevalent small businesses on the planet -- the home. They are responsible -- physically or by decision-making -- for purchasing, financial management, negotiating with vendors, transportation and travel issues, making health care policy decisions, plant maintenance and management. Why are these concepts any less important because they are called, grocery/clothing shopping, household budgeting, paying the bills or making payment arrangements, which I suspect is a lot more common than the folks who can sit down and write out checks for payment in full every month. Why are transportation and travel issues any less important because they are called car-pooling the kids to baseball practice? The reason that men can pursue high-powered jobs and have families is because even today, there is frequently a woman at home whose career is taking care of the home and family so that he can focus on his corporate responsibilities. Non-working mother is the most ridiculous oxymoron around! It doesn't seem that males are expected to do both jobs. Why are women expected to do both jobs? Why is it considered a problem? Why is a woman considered a failure, somehow, if she chooses not to be a wife and mother?
It takes a really powerful set of mental gymnastics to sincerely believe that the same people who do all these things daily for twenty, thirty, forty years are not capable of doing them in a corporate setting.
What has any of this to do with the Civil Rights Act? It proves again, in transparent terms, that passing a law does not solve a problem that is based in the psyche. The best intentioned laws cannot change people's hearts and minds. Without the change of heart and mind -- perception -- it almost doesn't matter whether a law is in place or not. When the very language the discussion is framed in, from women and men both, is so biased, how do people rise above? Here are some examples: this statement comes from an article to be found on the research website, Questia. The latest date I could find in it is 1993, but I really doubt that much has changed.
Women managers have not achieved equity with their male peers in terms of their ability to pursue a career and have a family. In 1988, only 60.1% of women managers were married, compared with 75.3% of men managers (U.S. Department of Labor, 1989a). Reflecting the growing tendency to delay childbearing, approximately 57% of women managers between the ages of twenty-five and thrity-four and 25% of women managers ages thirty-five to forty-four are childless (Parasuraman and Greenhaus, 1993). Compared with their male colleagues, executive women are thirteen times more likely to be single, separated, divorced or widowed (Parasuraman and Greenhaus, 1993). Moreover, executive women are significantly more likely to be childless (61%) than executive men (3%) (Powell, 1988). Thus, it appears that women who have made it into the executive suite have difficulty juggling both a family life and high-powered career.
What a strange way to frame the whole idea. Article after article, articles written by women, prattle on and on about women trying to be executives and have families. Don't mis-understand. I am not anti-family. I hope the reason this is continuously harped on is because men can be executives and have families. What I don't understand is the automatic assumption that the executive woman must want a family. What makes this whole subject a problem? What ever happened to choice? What makes this the woman's problem? Maybe the reason she isn't married is because the man involved/chosen whatever, couldn't deal with the idea of a woman who held a position of more status than his. I didn't see anything in all of the reading I did for this that suggested men grow up and stop acting like spoiled little boys whose egos can't handle any other way of doing business but the "right/male" way.
This use of language is probably the single greatest problem in solving any social issue for any group of people. Until we quit framing matters of choice or conscience in terms of good/bad, right/wrong, almost any polarity you can think of, we can't get to the heart of an issue.
Women have as much right to not have children as to have them. It is not a "failure" to cope. I have a hard time believing that the same information, discussing males, would ever be couched in terms of success or failure of anything.
One industry that seems to have caught a vision of what can be achieved at that most important of levels -- the bottom line -- by being women-friendly is that of certified public accountants. This quote comes from a Price Waterhouse partner:
At Price Waterhouse, the call for change was loud and clear. We had an increasingly diverse workforce; our clients wanted more in-depth expertise; employees were asking for career growth options and alternative routes to success; we were losing 25% of our staff each year; the firm itself needed to attract and retain top-performing people with diverse skills and capabilities. It was high time to replace this homogeneous "up and out" career model with a more flexible arrangement. (Engoron, 1997, p. 9)
The article goes on to say that "other large public accounting firms view women-friendly policies as an economic benefit because they reduce turnover costs." There is this firm statistic from a company called Deloitte and Touche. They state that, "...a 10% improvement in the rate of retention at the manager level translates into $5.5 million to the firm's bottom line.
Earlier in this essay, the comment was made that workers being fulfilled was good for the bottom line. What better proof of that sentiment could anybody want?
I will go further. These policies are being labeled woman-friendly. In reality, they are people friendly. Why wouldn't these policies -- in-house day care, shared positions, working from home via…