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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Excuses emoi, women are just bored

It seems that mainstream media is hell-bent on convincing us that everything for women is all worked out. Last week, we found out we could find work/career balance utopia in three easy steps, and this past Sunday the New York Times published an article called, "Behind the Exodus of Executive Women: Boredom."

So it's not lack of choice or support from companies after all. Phew.

I've been feeling like I bitch a lot at the media lately, but they just give me so much material! Plus, since I used to be a reporter, I feel somewhat entitled to take on the role of ombudsman just a bit. So as much as I wanted to ignore it, this NY Times piece has just been eating at me. So I couldn't let it go after all.

The first paragraphs starts out: "Women now outnumber men in managerial and professional positions, and most companies have installed policies that aim to help their leaders balance the demands of job and family."

The fact that Claudia Deutsch whitewashes over a significant issues facing millions of women is infuriating. Yes, more women are getting degrees and landing better-paying jobs, but I'm not sure it would lead me to the roof-tops hollering that women have finally reached parity.

Also, saying that most companies have installed policies to help their leaders balance job and family is also a joke. First of all, who is Deutsch talking about when she says leaders? Executives? Board directors? All managers? Not clear. So if companies having policies to help their leaders, does that mean that they are doing little to nothing for the rest of the parents pursuing a balance? And aren't those "non-leaders" the people who probably need the onsite childcare or flexible schedules more than anything.

Finding good, affordable, and reliable child care is a ongoing struggle for working parents. If a child gets a snow day or if a child is sick and needs to be sent home from school, what do working parents do? It often forces parents "to juggle a host of unpalatable options - stay home from work, bring kids to the office, foist them on the neighbors, hire an unfamiliar sitter," wrote Maggie Jackson, a columnist for the Boston Globe in February.

I'm sure it these "leaders" who likely earn enough money to have a full-time nanny with their kids, or who can just take the afternoon off without getting the hairy eyeball from their boss. But that is just the beginning.

"So much for the idea that women stay home to run families," said Cathleen A. Benko in the article. Benko runs Deloitte & Touche's high-technology sector and its Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women. Sure, if you interview women in their late 40s, I'm not surprised that many of them are in the workforce pursing their careers instead of families. The women Deutsch interviewed for this "boredom" article are 48, 49, and 53 years old. If they have kids, they are probably all grown up or at least in school full-time. These aren't pregnant women or women with toddlers trying to figure out how to mesh a career into their lives while raising little kids.

To be fair, the article did interview two women of childbearing age, a 34-year-old attorney at Booz Allen Hamilton. Another was a women who left Ernst & Young six years ago when she was pregnant, only to be wooed back with a special project. Both of these women were fortunate to be at companies that valued these women enough to get creative about finding jobs that keep these women engaged at work without completely foregoing their other job as parent.

But let's be honest here, it isn't the norm and most women don't walk away from their careers because they were bored.


  1. Anonymous8:23 PM

    Oh, come on. I was bored, I tell you. All those hours on the phone trying to find a nanny? Bo-ring. The endless debate between me and my husband about who could make it home by 5:30? Dull in the extreme. Not to mention all those congratulatory promotion parties for my male friends, dutifully attended by their helpful elves and well-dressed children. Why should I put up with tedious paychecks, feedback, and chours of concentrated thought when there are cheese sandwiches to make and laundry to me done? Plus, the eternal, fascinating puzzle that is loading the dishwasher.

  2. I think for my wife, the problem was not so much that being a vp in a big corporation was boring, as it was soul-sucking and life-consuming. At that level, they do expect every ounce of your energy. So how can you be a parent in that kind of environment? And I agree with you on policies to "help balance"... It's laughable.

    It's really unfortunate because anyone at those levels experiences it. Guys especially, but since most of us have been socialized to repress wanting anything else, it's hard to express that thought for us.

    For my wife, leaving corporate job with big pay, even though the job was pretty interesting, was about being able to stay true to herself and her life priorities. Unforunately there are very few professional jobs where you don't have to give 110%. If you haven't read Miriam Peskowitz's book "The Truth about the Mommy Wars" I really recommend it, she gets into all this stuff in a really good way.

    I'll just finally add that most working women are not in these professional jobs, they're in the kind of jobs that most people in general are in: underpaid, overworked, little if any security. Once again the NYTimes generalizes from a narrow slice of upper middle class women to represent "all women"...

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you -- that article p*ssed me off in the worst way. What was the point of even writing it? I bet the author is a man ghostwriting as a woman, trying to get all us working moms off his back about flexible work arrangements! :-)

  4. Anonymous5:08 PM

    Well frankly that article hit the spot for me.

    Things like work-life balance issues & whether companies are really promoting it (mentioned by previous commenters) is a valid but totally different issue.

    I had been feeling bored at work & had been discussing this w/ my spouse & women friends. I am a successful mid-level mgr w/ a 2yr old. My job by itself is pretty interesting. However, what makes it boring is that when I try to envision my next step by looking at my managers or other experienced people around me (95% men within my function in my industry), I find my self totally unmotivated. I dont want to become like them. Mind you, they are real smart & bright men. But thats it. I find myself saying, there is gotta to be something more to getting there making all the hard work/sacrifice worthwhile.

    Maybe women look for a higher/deeper level of satisfaction??? Like a previous person alluded to, men are not likely to question the big picture satisfaction. Anyhow, I think this boredom is due to fewer women. Not in the overall workforce, but the segments where the women are getting bored i.e. women executives & industries w/ less women (hi-tech). Esp. in the latter segment, since there are so few women role models, there is no one to look up to, leading to women quitting due to boredom or work life balance etc leading to fewer role models & the vicious cycle continues.