Friday, November 16, 2012

Weekend Reading: Thinking About Work Edition

Hey, look! I have a theme to my weekend links again! My links this week are all about work in one way or another.

First up, Rands had an excellent post about a clash of cultures in the techie workplace. I'm definitely a stable. It is good for me to remember the value of the volatiles, too, although I don't work at a company that sells software, so we are less in need of their disruptive genius and more in need of just being able to deliver reliable tools that do what the other scientists in the company need them to do.

Sticking with the techie side of things, I have a new programmer blog I like reading, called The Endeavour, by John Cook (get it?) and he had a fun post about the life lessons to be gleaned from functional programming.

Speaking of life lessons, I found this excellent rant about the loss of perspective in a creative career via someone on Twitter, but I failed to note who.

And since we're now talking about work/life balance and the like... here is a thoroughly depressing summary of some recent research about what ambitious MBA students expect in that department:

"Gen Y women are more prepared and much more specific about how they would manage work versus family when they project 10 years out. They cited strategies such as using choosing workplaces known for good work-life policies, having kids later to be more stable financially, living close to family members, and managing flex-time effectively (longer weekdays with weekends off). Surprisingly, none of the women mentioned a scenario in which their spouse stayed home with the children.

Gen Y men, in contrast, had vague strategies for balancing work and family. They did not assume their partner would have a heavy workload, nor did they mention the possibility that their partner would be the breadwinner in the family. Most envisioned spouses who would work part time, work at home, or simply be at home. Most of the men assumed that their spouses would take care of the children when a work conflict arises. One single male student, for example, said, "I think I'd be completely comfortable--and I hope this doesn't sound sexist--if my spouse is taking more of an at-home mom role, and to allow for a balance of time in that respect.""

Ouch. So much for the idea that we can just wait for the dinosaurs to retire/die off and then we'll be in a gender equality nirvana.

I think this highlights a good reason to argue back against the "women can't have it all" mindset. A woman is indeed unlikely to be able to "have it all" if she's got a partner who thinks that balancing work and life is only her problem and not also his. And it will be harder for her to "have it all" if she has to compete in a work environment dominated by men with this attitude. When we as a culture just throw up our hands and say "women can't have it all!" but do not acknowledge that neither can men, we're just undervaluing the parts they tend to miss out on, we are surrendering to our patriarchal history. We can do better. This is why while I don't care what any one woman decides to do with her life- we all get only one chance to live and have to make compromises to find the arrangements that make us happiest in our far from perfect world-  I do care when that woman extrapolates from her life to all women and I do care when in doing so she casually lets men off the hook for the free pass on "work/life balance" that they have been getting all these years, and to a large extent continue to get.

Moving on... to other depressing "women at work" topics! Isis the Scientist completely nails the reason that so much sexual harassment goes unreported in the sciences. You may or may not be able to sink the harasser's career, but chances are in attempting to bring him to justice you'll sink your own career. Sad, but true, I think. So while I applaud the women who are brave enough to fight back, I refuse to judge the women who choose to just deal with the harassment and try to get on with their careers. But I am not completely impartial here. I have had to make a decision like this, back when I was a much younger scientist. I did not make a fuss about the harassment and my career continued. It is impossible to know what would have happened if I had made a fuss, but I am pretty sure that I would have faced some unpleasant repercussions. (Of course, I am old enough that at the time during which I was making my decision, the spectacle of the Anita Hill hearings was fresh in my memory... maybe things are better now. Sadly, I sort of doubt it.)

And one final depressing "women at work" article, about how women aren't held back by an ambition gap, they are just held back. Sigh.

I hate to end on such a downer. So watch this hilarious and eerily accurate spoof video about why MTV doesn't play music videos any more:


  1. Yes. I dont want to be *that woman* who cries sexism in the workplace. It has a better chance of damaging my career than righting the wrong.

  2. Anonymous5:09 AM

    OMG, I am getting old. I do miss my MTV. (But yeah, Youtube!)

    1. Anonymous7:52 AM

      Also that perspective piece is similar to the book, "Slack."

  3. ... Rands had an excellent post about a clash of cultures in the techie workplace.

    Shit. I think I am a volatile. (The article describes them as completely insane, though.) I can't really identify with any of the bullet points for stables; most of the volatiles' qualities fit me but not all do (perhaps because volatiles are not sociopaths, which the article seems to indicate). These two traits in particular resonated with me: Prefer to define strategy rather than follow it;
    Have issues with authority and often have legitimate arguments for anarchy.

    I am so fortunate to have landed a faculty position (i.e. doing science while being my own boss) because I have always known I would be a lousy employee in a company...

    1. I didn't get the "volatiles are sociopaths" vibe from that at all! In fact, I suspect Rands has a solid volatile streak himself.

  4. I am not surprised that MBAs think this way. Every time I hear or read about work/life solutions, there is the assumption that the balance/juggling act is ALL done by women. Younger women I know simply seem to accept a certain inequality when it comes to managing household chores/cooking and that's even including kids. And then women try to do this insane balancing act at work while managing the household chore list. Men definitely still get off the hook!

    For my part, when I read blogs that talk about an overwhelmed working mom doing the juggling act, I always try to chime in and suggest that she get the husband to pitch in. You would be surprised at the number of blogs/articles that never include "husband pitching in and doing more" as part of the solution, even if these articles may suggest asking kids to help out more.

    1. I know that in my case constantly having to ask for help, because husband doesn't do stuff outside his regular duties unprompted, is just wearing me down. It is easier to do it myself than to have to ask him all the time, and he feels like he is doing me this huge favor every time he helps. Sure, ideally I would have married a guy who helps more, but I didn't, and I don't feel chores are a good enough reason to divorce him. So my guess is this is the real reason behind overwhelmed mothers not mentioning getting help from husband as an option: because it really is not an option, or requires too much energy to get this help, not because overworked mothers are dense. Maybe some are deeply patriarchal, but my guess is that many just don't want to have those discussions with their husbands any more. With me, I know I have to either pull if on marriage or make peace with the fact that he does not help me as much as I would like or need. I have decided this is not enough to divorce as he had other qualities and we have children.

    2. Sorry about typos, tiny iPhone keyboard.
      It should be "pulling plug on marriage" above.

  5. That MBA report is utterly fascinating. I was interested in the answers people gave of what to do when the 1-year-old has a sinus infection and no one can cover. Most men assumed that they could depend on their partners. But a similar number also indicated they'd discuss the situation with their partner and figure it out based on work priorities. On a different question, it seems almost no one thought through what kind of help they'd need to hire, or at least didn't like answering the question the way it was phrased. Blog post coming...

    1. Or not. I looked and she interviewed 20 people, so 10 men and 10 women. That means that when the report says 10% said something, it means one person.

    2. Yeah, I probably should have put a warning about the small sample size in the post. It would be interesting if someone would look at the detailed info she gathered and use that to design a really good survey that could be applied to a larger sample size!

  6. Thanks for the link round up. I am a new reader of your blog. While I have a Fortune 500 corporate background in mgmt, I am now working to create my own job. Currently I write erotica. Ha. From managing a $20 million global business unit to smut...did not see that coming. It is, however, lucrative and flexible, which is good when you have small kids around.

    What struck me about the link list was the way men perceive parenting to be a mommy job. My husband helps a lot, he helps more than most guys I know, and yet I still get a disproportionate amount of the parenting work. He has a stable job where he can take time off without repercussions whereas I'm in a busy growth period where I need to buckle down and focus. Guess who has to take time off work for family issues? Me!

    What fascinates me even more is he grew up in an Eastern Bloc country during the Cold War. Gender roles were very traditional so the fact that he mops the floors, does the laundry etc... is very much against the grain of his cultural background.(His mother is horrified by the way and I suspect she calls me a lazy slut under her breath.) And yet there's still a latent 'default to mommy' sexism there. It's weird.

    And my other main thought after reading through your list is...I'm glad I'm trying to do something on my own. I enjoyed my time in corporate America, despite its problems. At times, I even miss the structure and compartmentalization of a regular job, but this new career path is a much better fit for me.

    My answer to the parenting gap? Make enough money to hire a personal assistant!


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