Tag Archives: working women

LSS: A long way to go

International Women’s Day was Friday. Even though March 8 is an official holiday in at least 27 countries around the world, the day isn’t such a big deal here in the States.
In recognition of the day, The Economist compiled its own so-called “glass ceiling index,” designed to show where women have the best chance for equal treatment at work. After evaluating five areas including education; female labor-force participation; the male-female wage gap; the proportion of women in senior jobs; and net child-care costs relative to the average wage, the results are in.
If you’re sporting two X chromosomes and you want your best possibilities, the question is, how do you feel about kiwi? Yep, head out to New Zealand. The country scores high on all indicators.
If you’re not so fond of kiwi, maybe you’d prefer a more Nordic approach? Norway and Sweden come in second and third when it comes to a woman’s rights and opportunities in the workplace. Canada, Australia, Spain, Finland, Portugal and Poland follow.
The United States comes in 12th place. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, women in the U.S. make about 81 cents compared to the dollar their male counterparts make. Our family leave policies lag behind the others too.
We’ve come a long way, baby, but we’ve still got a ways to go. Elements of a patriarchal system still exist. Though not all workingwomen are mothers, being a working mother and having a successful career is difficult and comes at a price even in the best of situations.
Something’s got to give — even in New Zealand.
Unless a family makes a deliberate choice to create a life that is far from the norm, the daily rat race has the capacity to overwhelm. Our family decided to take two years off.
We’re back in high gear this year. A week’s activities include piano classes, tennis practice, track, quiz bowl, play rehearsal, guitar lessons, church youth group obligations, service hours on Saturday, early buses in the morning and late buses in the afternoon.
We’re managing — in large part because my husband is incredibly patient and doesn’t mind taking the lion’s share of the shuttle service we run. But the primary reason we’re able to make it work this year is because we rested up during the last two.
While we were out of the rat race, the pace of life was more humane. Remember, the laws of nature don’t say that we have to live the way we live culturally — in terms of education, work and activity choices for our children and ourselves. During our two-year hiatus, I home schooled our daughters while working primarily from home. For me, assuring a good education for our daughters and that my employers got their money’s worth took a lot of coordination, energy and disciple.
The flip side of the price I paid was that that the lives of our family were more leisurely — pleasant even. We didn’t have to be somewhere every minute of every day. We could have pajama days when we needed them. We didn’t have to sign forms for field trips.
Surprisingly, two years out of the system did wonders for my career — but it was a risk. The time and opportunity to look at the working world differently gave me the chance to take control of my career and not depend on a specific organization for my livelihood. My risk paid off, but it didn’t come without criticism from friends and relations. I had to listen to my gut and knew what I knew was right, even if it went against traditional thinking and wisdom.
In doing so, life was fun again — and the bonus was that professional opportunities blossomed.
International Women’s Day, started primarily as an initiative for women to gain more rights in the workplace. We’ve made strides in that department, but we still have work to be done. Women outside of the workplace need advocates too. There is so much more to being a woman than working.
Taking the risk to explore making the whole woman’s world’s better, rather than just her work life, pays off for every one.
Or as my husband and the old adage say, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”