The inquisitive gender studies student and Sheryl Sandberg

Department of What We Say versus What They Hear:

I was chatting with a gender studies teacher. Students were assigned to read various documents regarding the difficulties facing women in the American workforce (certainly in China and Korea women are much more likely to reach the CEO position). One of the assigned works was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (Gender, Power, Leadership and the Workplace is an example class that requires students to read Lean In).

The teacher explained that she expected students to question the status quo, become angry about the unfairness of being paid less than men, push for political change, and help their sisters in the office. After digesting these materials, however, one young woman asked “Wouldn’t it make the most sense then for me to get married and let my husband support me?”

[Related: About 15 years ago, at the height of what seemed like the largest possible Wall Street bubble, a female Harvard undergraduate mentioned at a party that “I used to want to be an investment banker. Then I realized that I could simply marry an investment banker.”]

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4 Comments

  1. GermanL

    November 6, 2015 @ 10:10 pm

    1

    “We will explore women and men in leadership positions within the corporate, political and non-profit sectors, with attention to the roles of women of color and immigrant women within this context.”

    Why only leadership positions? What about the more abundant non-leadership positions? Why only corporate/political/nonprofit? Why not explore, I dunno, the inequality in garbage / sewers / construction /military/ carpentry / machining / firefighting and other typically male positions. Actually if you are really concerned with achieving the most parity for the most women you should just start at the top of the list for the most common job: truck-driving (http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/02/05/382664837/map-the-most-common-job-in-every-state). But let’s face it, truck driving will likely be obsolete in 20 years.

    “We will also look at specific policies such as affirmative action, parental leave, child-care policy, and working-time policies and the role they play–or could play–in achieving parity.”

    So parity is what they want, but only parity for specific classes of workers (i.e. women with children). Sounds more like it’s too hard to *lean into* the consequences of making choices. Having children is a choice. Why we should subsidize a subset of some individual’s choices over other possible choices? The typical excuse is that we need to feed the SS/Medicare ponzi scheme with more babies.

    These sorts of classes are just propaganda and nothing more.

  2. Matt

    November 7, 2015 @ 10:01 am

    2

    I have always questioned these statistics anyway. If you carry this “Women are paid X% less, all things equal, than men” to their most ridiculous conclusion, then a smart business owner would ONLY hire women. Why not keep your workforce costs X% lower than they could be if you hired men? The statistics cited always have the “for equal work” qualifier – so what responsible business owner wouldn’t take advantage of that fact?

    And yes, I know this argument is somewhat ridiculous – but I’m still curious why no one ever brings it up.

  3. Izzie L.

    November 7, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

    3

    Matt – you don’t understand the mind of the horrible white male sexists/racists that run America – EVEN THOUGH they could save gobs of money by hiring women for 70% of what they pay men, they won’t do it because they are evil.

    Also, a lot of the “equal work” studies are based on highly subjective criteria – is working as say an engineer “equal work” with working as an elementary school teacher? If the people conducting the “equal work” study say it is, then it is. “Equal work” like “fair wage” means “I don’t like the values that the market assigns – I am smarter than the market and know what is right.”

  4. ianf

    November 12, 2015 @ 9:56 am

    4

    @ #1 GermanL, you ask an awkward question about occupational segments cherry-picked for unfavorable comparison duty that promoters of women-eternal-victims theory everywhere would rather not face. More specifically, that there exist whole sectors of (most any nation’s) economy, where women are dominant both at field/ lowest/ level, and at managerial level, and in which salaries are generally kept below par of comparable, yet more mix-gendered sectors. I don’t know about the USA, but in Western Europe basically all menial, lowest-paid janitorial, hospital, and old age carers jobs are held by 2nd generation immigrant/ often Middle Eastern/ women (that should suffice in part as an answer to another of philg’s questions, the mercantile one about the recent apparent European willingness to accept the mass influx of migrants). Yet it is obvious that, unlike the lady Gaga, “they weren’t born that way,” and that those their low-wage occupations reflect as much a choice, as a consequence of the necessity of working to survive.

    Back to topic at hand, this overall low wage discrepancy can not be explained away by some alleged women’s lack of individual or collective bargaining power, but has to be anchored in female survival strategies and/or perception of self-esteem. A cynic whose name I’ve forgotten once expressed it this way: “more than men, women are willing to trade away the excitement of a challenge for the security of drudgery—provided that that takes place under an air-conditioned roof, and in a sitting position.” That obviously generalized statement can be viewed as a full frontal derogatory attack, as I learned when once dressing this up as a question in a public debate, whereupon I was uniformly shouted down… so I trust that, e.g., the Smartest Woman on the Internet known to frequent these pages, will be well above that ;-))

    #3 Izzie L. […] “A lot of the ‘equal pay’ studies are based on highly subjective criteria – is working as say an engineer ‘equal work’ with working as an elementary school teacher?

    I’d say the status of the latter definitely should be raised, as we’re talking of shaping unpredictable, childishly moody human machines, rather than, as for the engineers, much more predictable hardware ones. Only the society, incl. the majority of women themselves, do not value it highly. The soft, touchy-feely occupations do not warrant the same level of appreciation and remuneration, as the harder/ harsher/ less emotive ditto. Ever so nice hand- and chitchat abilities with fellow human beings is not worth a whole lot more in the eyes of the polity.

    Nowhere was this better illustrated than in a recent interview of BBC’s Evan Davis with the 81yo Larry King, whose new post-retirement talk show is syndicated on—if not sponsored by—the Putin-tube RT (formerly Russia Today) TV news channel. Asked if “he did it for the money,” LK answered simply that he never did anything for the money, because he valued his independence too much… “I never had to go to work in my entire life… face it, Evan, you and I are talking and getting paid for it.” Perhaps an edge example, but, analogous to what the developer of the so-called Zero Ground Mosque once said about NYC real-estate, and here applied to the jobs market, “either one is a player, or one is on the menu.” ;-))

    Historically speaking, women were not allowed to /acquiesced not to/ be players, so they developed other goal-achievement strategies, success by proxy. Only it now turns out that they didn’t, never were the least instrumental in shaping the past, the morals, were mostly passive child-bearing vessels, and effectively chattel. I can’t help to think that the fact that Philg’s many status-quo-questioning[sic!] posts aren’t being debunked by bloody-mary-women reading these pages, but that the comments come[sic again!] mainly from us few girlie men here.

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