YaleWomen Global Newsletter | December 2015

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | December 2015

  • From the Chair of YaleWomen
  • YaleWomen at the AYA Assembly
  • The Inaugural YaleWomen Award Dinner
  • YaleWomen Chapters: Year in Review
  • Watch: YaleWomen's 'Gender Rules' Symposium
  • YaleWomen at Yale: Addressing Sexual Assault on Campus
  • From the Desk of the YaleWomen 50/50 Media Project: The Gender Pay Gap Through a Hollywood Lens
  • Join the YaleWomen Council!
  • Join the Yale Career Network
  • Support YaleWomen

Read the full newsletter here: YaleWomen Global Newsletter | December 2015

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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | September 2015

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | September 2015

  • From the Chair of YaleWomen
  • YaleWomen Chapters at Work
  • YaleWomen at Yale
  • From the Desk of the YaleWomen 50/50 Media Project: When Doing A Good Job Is Not Enough
  • Coming Soon: Gender Rules Conference Video
  • Calling All Musicians and Composers!
  • Fundraising Gala Honoring Barbara Bush ’04
  • Women's Health Research at Yale Public Awareness Campaign
  • Join the Yale Career Network
  • Support YaleWomen

Read the full newsletter here: YaleWomen Global Newsletter | September 2015

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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | June 2015

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | June 2015

  • From the Chair of YaleWomen
  • We are Thrilled to Announce...
  • Save the Date!
  • YaleWomen at the Reunions
  • YaleWomen Chapters at Work
  • From the Desk of the YaleWomen 50/50 Media Project: Hollywood's Unfair Hiring Practices Get ACLU's Attention
  • Support YaleWomen

Read the full newsletter here: YaleWomen Global Newsletter | June 2015

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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | March 2015

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | March 2015

  • From the YaleWomen Chair
  • Yale Women's Leadership Initiative 7th Annual Conference: W.E. Women
  • One YaleWoman's Opinion: the Ellen Pao Trial
  • YaleWomen @ Reunion 2015
  • Join Yale Day of Service!
  • YaleWomen Chapters: Building Capacity through Creative Collaboration
  • From the Desk of the YaleWomen 50/50 Media Initiative
  • Registration Now Open!
  • Support YaleWomen

Read the full newsletter here: YaleWomen Global Newsletter | March 2015

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Work on Bias and Change the World

I’ve been thinking about the Ellen Pao / Kleiner Perkins trial as the jury continues to deliberate. Was Ellen Pao qualified to be promoted? I can’t tell. Was she the victim of overt gender discrimination, and dismissed because she challenged her firm about it? It seems like it. Was she subject to unconscious bias at Kleiner Perkins? Unquestionably. The problem is that Kleiner Perkins’ answer to the first question is an outcome of the third answer.

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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | December 2014

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | December 2014

  • Holiday Greetings From Your YaleWomen Chair
  • YaleWomen and Women Faculty Forum Symposium: Gender Rules
  • YaleWomen Chapters: Creating Social Capital
  • From the Desk of the YaleWomen 50/50 Media Initiative
  • Join the YaleWomen Council
  • Support YaleWomen
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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | September 2014

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | September 2014

  • In With the New!
  • A Letter from Our New Chair
  • Save the Date for the Yale Women Faculty Forum on Nov. 1!
  • Energetic and Creative AYA Board Chair is the Sixth Woman to lead Yale Alums
  • What's at the Intersection?
  • From the Desk of the YaleWomen 50/50 Media Initiative
  • Calling all Bloggers!
  • Support YaleWomen
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More thoughts about staying home (Part 5)

You’ve all heard the airline safety spiel: how to buckle your seat belt, find the way to your closest exit, and put on those oxygen masks.  Helpful images accompany the oft-quoted line, “Put on your own mask before helping others.”

Take care of yourself first  — that’s the up-to-date advice for caretakers and (especially) new mothers.  Of course, the thinking is that if you’re not okay, you’re going to have a hard time helping the people who need you, be they children, parents or spouses.  The airplane metaphor is very practical;  if you faint from lack of oxygen while you’re adjusting your child’s mask, you’ll both be left gasping.  But there’s also a broader application, in which, for example, caretakers are advised to get some time off and mothers are told to get themselves to a yoga class or take a bath.  

After I had children, I heard a lot of this kind of advice.

There’s a pretty straight line from Feminism to the idea that women should take care of their own needs before attending to others.  When you get down to basics, the big news from Feminism was that women actually have needs, desires and ambitions.  It sounds like common sense now, but as a doctrine back then it was close to a revelation.  

Feminism told us that we had certain rights, but those also came with responsibilities.  By the time I graduated college in 1979, not only had I learned that I could be assertive, I had learned that I should be assertive.  Putting myself first wasn’t just acceptable, it was laudable.  

Yet in spite of the overwhelming influence of Feminism on my life and the gender-neutral expectations with which I was lucky enough to be raised, once I became a mother, any shred of putting myself first dissolved.  It became at best a goal for another decade, inserted into my brain right next to “having it all.”  

 Culturally speaking, good mothers are all about sacrifice.  Beginning with pregnancy and childbirth,  motherhood is easy to see through that lens.  Children want and need you in a variety of ways, from essential to optional — for food, cleanliness, attention and guidance.  But neither responsibility nor overwhelming love makes being at the beck and call of an infant or a toddler more fun than say, having a leisurely meal, or chatting with friends.  

What about the inverse?  Are you a bad mom if you put yourself first?  There’s a range of badness that would make a nifty graph.  On one end, making time to feed yourself and brush your hair occasionally — on the other end, shooting heroin.  Drug use, prostitution, leaving the family — they’re all classic tropes of bad motherhood — definitely the wrong kind of putting yourself first.  And there are pretty active controversies about where certain choices should go on the continuum — for one (judgmental) person choosing not to breastfeed equals being a bad mom, for another it’s letting your kids have access to screens.  Most of us are somewhere in the middle: we go out to dinner with friends and then feel guilty about not being home to help with homework, we miss a soccer game to go to the gym, or maybe bribe our toddlers with television to get a half-hour nap.  

The truth is that I felt guilty about not living up to either ideal — motherhood’s or Feminism.  I’d lay down my life for any of my children in a heartbeat, but if they interrupted me say, when I was eating, sleeping, reading, or watching ER, I could get crazy annoyed.  (Now that they’re adults I don’t mind quite as much.)  But back then I felt guilty when my own need for comfort, adult conversation or intellectual stimulation made me inattentive or absent.  And on the other hand, I struggled to justify not having a job, or not writing that novel.  Was I a bad feminist because I didn’t want it enough to make it work?  

It’s a legitimate question, one that’s definitely come back to haunt me. 

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Why Gender Rules Matter

YW-WFF_Gender_Rules.jpg

Asking the right questions is fundamental to finding the right solutions

Have you ever wondered why women's representation, across all levels of government, has been stalled for decades at less than 25%?

Although women have long had entree to careers in business, law, and medicine, why are women CEOs and those in C-suites such a rarity - and what happened to all the potential managing partners and department chairs?

Are the anti-discrimination laws we have the ones we need to close an array of gender gaps?

What are the consequences over time of the significant gender imbalance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers?

If we were to educate students differently, would it change the numbers? And what would "differently" look like?

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Staying at Home, Part 4

Here is a partial list of work I did while staying home with my kids:*

    Room mother
    Auction catalog organizer/co-writer
    Secretary of Parent Board
    Member of Board of Trustees
    Library volunteer (my favorite)
    Organizer of a student film competition
    Yale interviewer
    Unofficial secretary of my 28 year old Book Club — writing correspondence, keeping    records, creating and managing our website
     Co-writer of the proposal for a how-to book about our Book Club.  (We were too easily discouraged and gave up after three (only three!) agents passed on the project.)  

Clearly I am a person who likes to be busy, prides herself on contributing, and has a multitude of interests.  I didn’t have to do most of the things on the list; I chose them.  With my husband frequently out of town or working long hours, I wanted to spend time with adults, so I volunteered at school.  I wanted my Book Club to be successful, and took on its organization.  I read books on the sidelines of all kinds of sports games, looking up to cheer when I heard other parents cheering.  I wondered if my kids should be made to practice musical instruments if neither of their parents played, so after about a thirty year hiatus I took up piano again.  I made (beautiful, if I do say so myself) embroidery samplers while watching Rug Rats with the kids.  I learned Quicken so I could keep track of our finances…  

Just making such a list makes me sound defensive, right?  And I am.  I’ve watched too many eyes glaze over when I told them what I was up to.  Graduating from Yale garners expectations from employers, friends, and family along the lines of, “Designed any Mars Landers recently?”  The daily work of being a mom is not the stuff of exciting narrative.  It can be engaging and even fascinating from a “student of human nature” perspective, but that’s something you only know from the inside.
 
Other parents, who had to work outside the home ran the gamut in their appraisals.  For each, “Thanks for everything you do, here’s your annual room parent gift,” I’d hear “It’s so unfair that you get to do all these things with and for your children.”  The issue is fraught, from all perspectives.

But challenges abound.  Think about being the Type A person who sits on a playground bench.  Learning to be “in the moment” with my children instead of always busily accomplishing was the (highly unsung) personal triumph of that time in my life.  Frankly, it’s the best thing I could have learned, though I can’t say I’ve quite got it yet.

I was challenged in so many ways, some quite similar to life in the “working” world.  I had carpool schedules, snack schedules, hot lunch schedules and meeting schedules.  Plus practice, game and rehearsal schedules.  If one thing fell out of place, there were back up plans.  In Los Angeles all these things require driving.**  It’s a wonder no one gave me a gold watch when the last kid went to college.  

Every parent has her (or his) own story.  I can get judgmental with the best of them, but I try not to jump to conclusions about staying home vs. working.  When I see young mothers, which occasionally I do, I like to hear their stories, their concerns — their realization that they’ve just talked to the casher for five minutes because she’s the first adult they’ve seen all day.  Looking around during such conversations, I often note disapproval from eavesdroppers.  The unasked question: why do you care about her day with her child?  It’s not politics, it’s not art or business, so is it really worthy of discussion?  My answer:  without our mutual interest in how our children are raised — from the grand ethical questions to the minutia of daily rituals — childrearing will become even more devalued than it is already, and the women (and men) who stay home for whatever reason will continue to be marginalized.  In some ways that’s why I think I decided to write this blog.

 



*I couldn’t have done any of it without part-time help, which I had until my youngest was about five.

**Yes, there’s a whole other conversation there about everything from public transport to helicopter parenting but we’ll leave that for the moment.

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