The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Tag Archives: Work-life balance

Not so sharp, Akshually

“We’d cover cripples, left-handers and all the rest of it.”

Seven o’clock isn’t a particularly important time slot to me, darlings, as it’s the time of day I generally get out of bed and have my breakfast champagne. But I understand it’s something that some people get a bit exercised over.

So, I sat down one night to watch this flash new Seven Sharp programme. I thought it might be interesting. I wasn’t expecting to start the day so angry I was shaking.

Let’s talk about women in the workplace, they thought. Let’s do a fine, if glib, piece about women on boards. We won’t talk about the gender pay gap. We won’t talk about work-life balance, or any of the things that are important in terms of getting, and keeping, women in the workforce. But it will be tongue in cheek, and a bit irreverent, and everything will be fine, if hardly ground-breaking.

So….then what should we do? We should get an expert on. Someone who can talk about women in the workplace. Maybe one of the unions? No, not controversial enough. Hey, this chick might know what she’s talking about? No, too…well, expert. And a woman. No one trusts those.

No, let’s get someone guaranteed to give us a good soundbite. Someone whose misogyny, homophobia and general hatred of people he doesn’t like is legend. It won’t add anything to the debate, it’ll allow him to call our host, one of New Zealand’s most experienced broadcasters, “the token female”. Why bother to actually cover a story, an important issue, when we can stir up some outrage?

And hey, in their defence, it worked. I am outraged. Couple of things, Sir Bob. There’s a myriad of reasons women don’t want to stay on after five, many of which involve childcare, and the fact that that’s how many hours they are PAID FOR. But also, it’s entirely possible they don’t want to stay on and have a drink because you are such a raging asshole. This country is dominated by women in politics? That’s why women make up only 32%of the house, and only 6 women in cabinet. COOL STORY BRO.

And then there’s this. Thanks Seven Sharp. You’ve freed up a whole half hour in the evening for me!

Comments Bingo

Once again, my darlings, I’ve read the comments so you don’t have to. The things I do for you. You should all buy me bourbon and bonbons.

Liam Dann, whose columns I normally enjoy, wrote about the NZX requiring gender reporting from listed companies. So far, so…fine. He’s aware that writing about gender issues might “get him in trouble”, so I assume the very middle ground he’s steering is because of that. Though, why he’s mixing up reporting and actually having quotas is beyond me.

Here’s what we know. There are systemic reasons why there are few women in leadership roles in business, that involve undervaluing women’s skills, the impact of child care, and the fact that few women get mentored into senior positions. Little of this is addressed by the column, or in fact requiring disclosure, but it’s a step. I like to blame the fucking patriarchy, but you can choose your own cause. It’s worth mentioning the even tougher time women of colour and GLBT folk have, but that’s a very different column. That will never be published in the Herald.

So I have no beef with Mr Dann, particularly, which makes a nice change for Herald columnists. But the commenters never fail to live up to the lowest common denominator.

First up, Gavin believes “the number of women in the top tier of our business community is an embarrassment.” to whom? What a total non-issue.”  Well, Gavin, to anyone who believes that women deserve equality in all aspects of society, not just in name but in practice. Also, to anyone who wants our business community to be successful.

Lloyd wants “proper equality”:  “Why is there such an unfair gender imbalance in home executives. Let’s set a quota for home Dads and force 50% of home Mums back into the workforce. Fair’s fair.” I agree, Lloyd, let’s do that. And watch childcare in workplaces increase exponentially. Because no woman ever stayed home to look after children because that’s what made financial sense, not because she’s a lazy slapper, right?

BONUS ROUND: What About The Menz AND gender essentialism. Top marks for you, ‘A Dad’: “Perhaps we can also get the gender imbalance fixed for dangerous jobs too. Too many men are dying from mining, the heavy engineering and the armed forces. Yes, a very divisive subject but very important to air because of the many complexities that relate to each gender. We will never be equal as we are physically and psychologically different.”

YouKnowIt’sThe Truth can’t bring himself make an argument, except to say “The phrase “PC gone mad” is often despised by many as it’s so over-used, but I can’t think of a better one in this instance.” IT’S PC GONE MAD! Next, those uppity bitches will want, like, proper healthcare and education. GOD!

Timespider thinks successful people are special snowflakes and we should laud all of them: “When a woman makes it to the top she deserves it if she made it by herself & good on her – we need more women like this”‘ Because no man ever received assistance, mentoring, special education. EVER. They all got there through hard graft and good genes.

In totally missing the point news, along with a good old-fashioned, strawman, please come down Westiman: “Women are given opportunity to obtain skill sets- as you put it-turn the telescope around and ask the same question for men. How many men are nurses and what a kerfuffle that caused. There is a fundamental difference and as soon as you try to smooth the difference out you have total confusion on the roles/skills of both genders- Quotas are not the answer- are women some kind of “Sealord” catch?”

Speaking of strawmen, thanks Gondwana: “Should the All Black panel be adjusted genderly and when was the last Silver Ferns coach a male (I nominate myself to be the first even though I know nothing about netball). Why not leave people to live their own lives if they are good enough and work hard enough and sacrifice enough they’ll get their regardless of their gender.”

Oh, but wait, Gondwana has more: “This government enforced social engineering will be the death of us all. And you’ll notice it only ever goes one way! Women are always portrayed as the poor innocent little victims of male prejudice and never of their own folly and poor choices in life!” government enforced social engineering! We’re getting close to bingo here, folks.

So, that must mean it’s time for a little bit of drive-by misogyny. Wolfman sez “If you want something stuffed up, give it to a woman, plenty of examples of this around the world.”

Oh, also, we women should just be quiet and wait our turn, according to CGD: “I believe in 20-30 years from now there will be many women with the skills and experience to be in executive roles in bigger numbers than there are now. Good things take time!”

Except, that of course, it’s all our own fault, because we suck, and should probably get back in the kitchen. Right, refugee? “Women dominate in the teaching professions. Boys are failing. Badly. No one seems to have any problem with that, but answer this. Why? The London School of Economics knows.”

BINGO

On housework, and paying other people to do it for me

Cross posted

In a column on what New Zealand’s public priorities ought to be, economist Brian Easton give a brief summary of the latent functions of work, as articulated by social psychologist Marie Jahoda.

That is because work is a socially valuable experience. It does not just pay us, but it has some latent social functions:

– Employment imposes a time structure on the working day:

– It involves regularly shared experiences and contacts with people outside the nuclear family:

– It links an individual to goals and purposes which transcend her or his own:

– It enforces activity.

….A quick summary is that we because we are social animals we are happy to work, for it gives us more than just income.

That all seems plausible to me, and it certainly explains at least some of the disconnection I experienced when we lived in Adelaide, where my work was irregular and not integrated into a particular workplace community. Easton uses the analysis to show why we need to do better with respect to managing unemployment, and why we need to change our attitudes towards the unemployed. If you are at all interested in New Zealand’s economic priorities, or in social justice, then Easton’s column is very much worth reading.

It’s the next thing that Easton says in his column that has had me thinking.

You will observe that housework is not quite as successful at covering the latent functions – as well as it is not paid – which may explain why it is unpopular.

Why, YES!

– Housework has no time structure, for it is always there, always waiting to be done, always able to be done. One cannot resolve to finish housework for the day, turn off the computer, leave the office and go home to relax, because home is the very site where housework occurs.
– Housework occurs within the nuclear family.
– Perhaps housework does link one to goals and purposes outside one’s own goals and purposes, in the sense that it helps to create an environment in which other people can thrive, but that seems to stretch the idea of transcendence a little far.
– But it does enforce activity. It’s just hard for me to see it as particularly enjoyable activity, ‘though I know that others differ in this regard.

I find it very, very hard to motivate myself to do housework, ‘though oddly enough, i find it easier to do so when I have to fit it in around my paid work. A quick 15 minutes here or there is not too difficult to manage. But 15 minutes here or there isn’t really enough to keep it all under control, especially when we are both in paid employment. So… we have outsourced the horrid work, and hired a cleaner.

And there’s the rub. I know that all of us have work preferences, that just as the thought of academic work might send you running for the hills, the thought of say, accounts work makes we want to crawl under my desk in despair. But it seems that most people loathe housework, and really, I don’t see why my cleaner would enjoy it any more than I do. Of course, he can lock the door and go home… to more housework. And he gets paid for the work, which must help. However he works on his own – no social structure around work for him. Just in and out of different houses, cleaning, with no one to share the work, no one to chat to, to sit down for a coffee break with.

I tend to try to be out of the house when our cleaner comes in, partly so that he doesn’t have to work around me, partly because even though academic work is flexible, I prefer to work in my office on campus, and partly because our current cleaner insists on chatting to me, so that I can’t get on with my own work, and partly because I always find it hard having tradies in my space (that would be my native curmudgeonliness and introversion coming out ). But I’ve just started to think that making an effort to be absent is unfair, and that if I am going to provide a decent work environment, then as well as making sure that he is fairly paid (we hire and pay for cleaners through a local company, which means that we can be sure that the workers are getting the going rate, and holiday pay and sick pay and so on), I ought to be open to making sure that some of those latent functions of work are served as well. I don’t think I need to make a special effort to stay home, but scuttling out as quickly as I can seems to be at least a little churlish.

Or maybe this is all just too middle-class-angst-ridden for words, and I should just get over it.

*****************************

Previous writing on housework (as you can see this has been a bit of a touchstone issue for me over the years):
Ouch!
Dinosaurs thundering by again
Simone de Beauvoir on housework
We need a wife
Sharing the load

Get those children walking

Cross posted

Oh, the old “All those fat children should walk to school and get off my road” debate again… The Dominion Post has a front page article this morning: Why don’t children walk to school?” Apparently most children are driven to school, including 50% of those who live within 2km of their school, and only 35% walk or bike. This is a BAD THING.

The reasons for children not walking to school are to my mind, obvious. Time, and safety. If you are in paid employment as well as parenting, then time counts. Even twenty minutes walking your children to school is a huge impost in the mornings when you are racing to get to work. I’ve written about it before:

If it’s not the children who are at fault, it must surely be their parents. They are the ones who won’t take 20 minutes out of their mornings, or afternoons, to ensure that the children get to school safely, on foot. Never mind that many families need to have two income earners, just to pay the cost of housing and food. Two incomes means two jobs, and frantic mornings trying to get everyone cleaned, dressed, fed, lunches made and school bags packed, all while trying to ensure that both adults can get to work in reasonable order, and hopefully, on time. Twenty minutes may not sound like much time, but it is a huge chunk out of a busy morning. Yet somehow, the “children should walk to school” brigade think that parents can just dream this time up out of nowhere.

And let’s not forget that some parents are told very clearly that they ought to be working. sole parents are perhaps the busiest parents of all. And now here’s yet another thing that they ought somehow to be doing.

Then there’s safety. Getting across busy roads is a difficult task, even for adults. And it’s not just roads that are problematic: children are typically totally unaware of driveways, and cars reversing out. Yes, the driver of a reversing car is responsible for ensuring that she or he doesn’t run over any pedestrians, but that legal nicety is of little comfort when you are confronted with terribly injured children. There is a vicious circle here: driver awareness of pedestrians and cyclists would be better if there were more pedestrians and cyclists on the road, but the numbers are so low that at present it is simply dangerous to be out there, so the numbers of cyclists and pedestrians are decreasing, so awareness drops even lower and it gets more dangerous, so even less children walk and bike. The problem is well known.

Those points are obvious. But there are some other issues that might be raised. Children’s age makes an obvious difference. We live near one of the local highschools, and every morning, we see hordes of teenagers trudging along the nearby streets, and virtually no congestion outside the school gates. The article in the Dom Post notes that 70% of five year olds are driven to school, but only 42% of eleven and twelve year olds. My guess is that one critical factor in determining whether children are driven to school is the age of the youngest child in a family.

Second, parents are given competing directions about what to do with their children. On the one hand, we are told that we should make our children walk to school, but on the other, we are told that we are not allowed to leave our children unsupervised. So it’s okay to send your child out alone to walk to school, but it’s not okay to leave them at home alone.

Third, my guess is that many adults live within easy walking distance of their workplaces (the article seems to have two distances in mind: 2km for easy walking, and 5km for possible walking or riding), yet there is no pressure on them to leave their cars behind. Yet it would be just as easy for adults who don’t have responsibility for children to take the extra 20 minutes in their day to walk or bike to work. But as usual, it’s just so much easier to ladle blame and shame onto parents and children.

Disclosure:
My children walked to school in Adelaide, where we lived about 600m from the school, and the children could use a controlled crossing to get across a very busy arterial route.
We drive our children to school here in Greenhills, where we live about 3km from the school.