My friend Karima-Catherine (@karimacatherine) sent me a link to an article yesterday from the Wall Street Journal. It was another article about why women don’t seem to be dominating in senior management positions. As I was reading through the article, it seemed like there was an underlying sentiment that women are not more prominent in business settings because women:
1. Lose ambition faster than men
2. Want to “live life” more than men (what does this mean, exactly?)
3. Are restricted by the hours that various schools and day care centers are open
Sorry to be blunt, but these all seem like convenient excuses for a continuing, easily spotted, easily identified problem. In two words? Gender bias.
Why would a woman’s ambition “sour?”
Let’s talk about the first point that the Wall Street Journal article raises, and then references again a bit later. Saying that a woman loses interest or loses ambition is an interesting statement. Why would a highly successful, driven woman just suddenly decide “Eh, not really interested.”
The article seems to suggest that a woman’s ambition sours because she wants to go home and have children. For some women, this might be true. I don’t like to paint with a broad brush. But what might be the case for other driven women?
Is it possible that their ambition sours because they perceive they can’t break through due to gender bias?
Is it possible that they get tired of harassment that runs riot throughout the business world?
I’m just asking.
Don’t men want to “live life?”
I find it odd that the article states that women want to “live life” more, and hence might migrate away from the work-a-day world. I know plenty of men who wish they could spend more time with their children, in fact. If you surveyed a million people, I’ll bet a large majority of them would say, “Sure, I’d love to work less and spend more time with my family. That would be awesome!”
So what does this portion of the article really mean? Are we saying that women aren’t in senior management positions because they either can’t have children and work or don’t want to try? Again, for some women, that might be 100% true, but to say that this is an explanation as to why the “pipeline is leaky” doesn’t ring true to me. Perhaps women feel like they can’t go on maternity leave because their position would simply be taken away, so they feel like they have to choose?
Indicating that women tend to really excel as pediatricians also is a telling statement. Part-time hours, working with children – these are the kinds of jobs women really like. So if you are talking about a senior management position that requires more than an 8-hour workday, women just won’t like that as much.
Again, to me it seems like we are using the fact that women can give birth as a convenient excuse for gender bias. “Oh, you wouldn’t like this job. You wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with your kids.”
It’s gender bias both ways
If I was a man, I would also feel insulted at these articles that insinuate that only women want to stay home and watch their children grow. Is it considered unmanly for a man to want to play with his kids? What about the growing population of stay-at-home dads? Are they just simply lacking ambition? Is child rearing still just “woman’s work?”
Isn’t it time we stopped using the woman’s womb as a weapon against both genders? Isn’t it time we stop using the fact that women can give birth as a shield for bias and discrimination?
It sure seems so to me.
Image by Brent Allison. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/ballison