My Yale Day of service project in Japan for the tsunami victims

I gave a concert for the tsunami victims and with Choir Musette who are tsunami victims. The idea for this concert was inspired by the Yale Day of Service philosophy. It was a very successful and emotional fulfilling experience.

nina deutsch

mma yale 1973

1 reaction Share

Stay-at-Home Mom Saga Continued. Part 3

Working Mom:
the best-laid plans.

My husband and I had a plan for being parents —  we would trade off work.  Film is a project-based industry, so we thought this was both practical and realistic.  Our scheme succeeded for about the first six months, largely because my husband’s job continued after our son was born.  Then it was my turn.

My husband would stay home, but the demands of his career meant that he was always on the lookout for work, which in turn meant phone calls (which back then, tied him to the landline) and meetings.  We hired an au pair, B, whom our son instantly adored.  B adored him back.  Finding someone so loving and trustworthy — I now realize — was a matter of luck, pure and simple.

The deck seemed clear for me to return to work.  I had the will, the breast pump, and an offer of a short job ten minutes from home.  The hours were long, so B would bring my son to me for at least one daily feeding.  But, where breastfeeding at home in a rocking chair was something I had conquered, there was no couch or private office in my warehouse-like building.  Solitude could only be found in the  large industrial Ladies Room where there was no (hygienic) seating.  Balancing my baby in my arms “just so” for even twenty minutes, was stressful, to say the least.  

Remember, it was 1987.   Working mother’s issues were very much under the radar.    

Next time, I wanted shorter hours.  I contacted my former bosses.  I should say here that they pretty much rolled out the red carpet to help me.  They supported every request and every change.  They were truly exceptional in an industry where traditionally only top-tier execs and highly-sought actresses receive accommodations.  When I decided to try being their Sound Librarian (a 9 to 5 position) they welcomed me back.  But a librarian’s take-home is about a third of an editor’s, and I barely made enough money to cover B’s salary.  Plus, I had a 45 minute commute.  

My next idea was to work at home.  I converted our study into my editing space and since those were pre-digital days, the company moved in a Moviola™, editing bench, rewinds, bins and supplies — all at their own expense.  

By then my son was a toddler.  Those of you who have been there can recognize this as a major flaw in my plan.  Moving gears, sharp metallic surfaces, bright and shiny objects — it was all there behind closed doors, along with his beloved mother.  He was allowed to visit, but the boundaries became fluid all too soon.  If my husband or B got distracted for even a second, in marched my son.  Sound editors wear headphones so I couldn’t even hear the door open.  Eventually his sippy-cup of orange juice tumbled into a bin of sound I had already cut.  Sugar does bad things to magnetic tracks.  I had to clean, check and recut almost everything.  

I tried again, moving my whole set up into our ancient detached garage.  Keeping tracks clean was a constant battle.  My son still knew where to find me.  When I found myself cutting background “gas chamber ambience,” for a disturbing scene in a bad movie I  seriously questioned how I was spending my days.

It wasn’t like I’d always envisioned myself as a sound editor.  It was a skill, a skill I was proud of and good at.  It appealed to my love of craft, my puzzle-solving compulsions, but wasn’t essential to my well-being.  My husband had a new job, a bigger film.  So I threw in the towel — the splicer, the paycheck — and discovered I was relieved. 

4 reactions Share

Literary Ladies Unite! Annual Book Club BBQ: A New Yale Women of NorCal Tradition

Last Saturday August 2nd, the lovely Michelle Fait (Yale SOM '93) hosted a fantastic group of Yale women as part of the YaleWomen of Northern California Book Club BBQ. Altogether, about 15 literary ladies gathered in the early evening to grill some grub, get nerdy and meet some fellow Yale ladies in the Bay Area.

(Special blog contribution by Teresa Tapia, PC '06)

 
Read more
1 reaction Share

YaleWomen Northern California: Preventing Sexual Violence

On June 4, YaleWomen of Northern California along with the Yale Club of San Francisco and the AYA hosted a discussion on "Preventing Sexual Violence: The Workplace, the College Campus, and Other Sexual Ecologies," featuring Yale faculty Melanie Boyd (Assistant Dean of Student Affairs; Lecturer, Women's Gender & Sexuality Studies) and Inderpal Grewal (Chair, Department of Women's Gender & Sexuality Studies).

Read more
Add your reaction Share

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | June 2014

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | June 2014

  • Welcome to the new YaleWomen website!
  • Announcing YaleWomen's 2014-2015 Governing Council
  • Save the Date: YW + WFF Conference
  • From the Desk of the YaleWomen 50/50 Media Initiative
  • Chapter Highlight: YaleWomen NorCal hosts Title IX Talk
  • A Gathering of Yale College Women
  • Celebrating Yale's First Female Lecturer
  • Get involved
  • Stay Connected
  • Join Our Mailing List
Add your reaction Share

The Gender Divide in Hobbies?

Hobbies are very personal: some people like sports, others like cooking; some people like making art, others like making music. At Yale, we saw opportunities for many of these activities, and some even counted for course credit –whether as Drama School courses or as college seminars. There was a joke about the Basket Weaving course supposed to be offered at some “cool” and not-so-academic colleges. 

Read more
1 reaction Share

25 -- wait, no, 35 years later...

I vividly remember reading Lisa Belkin’s 2003 article, “The Opt-Out” Revolution.  My sons were 9, 13 and 16.  

Belkin’s article was the best I’d seen about the pros and cons of choosing to stay home with children.  It was also the only article I’d seen.  I had dutifully read what felt like hundreds of pieces about women-in-the-workplace, even though I’d left my own career in the film industry more than ten years before.  So when Belkin’s article came out, I was thrilled.  But I was older than the women in her article and had older children.  It made me feel a bit late to the party — like I feel when I see all the great baby paraphernalia invented just after I could have used it — the car seat that would have saved my back, the stroller that really does collapse easily.   
The next year was my my 25th Yale reunion.  I think the Belkin article contributed to my confidence in “coming-out” as a stay-at-home-mom among all my classmates and their extraordinary accomplishments.   I filled out the catch-up-with-your-classmates form (which I’ve edited it for length) as follows:

If you'd ever told 20 year old feminist-me that I would be raising three sons and not working I would have laughed in your face.

Nonetheless, here I am, 25 years later, and it's the most satisfying thing I could have done… One of us needed to be around [for the kids], and I discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that I wanted it to be me.  Also (and don't discount this as motivation) at home, I am the chief.  The person in authority.  The Queen.  And even though two out of three of our progeny are now teenagers, I still get listened to more in my house than anywhere in the outside world.  

However, Yale career codes notwithstanding, [alumni forms offer a list of career choices to check off] I am not a homemaker… What I am, and am proud of, is a mom.  That's why I picked the “career counseling” code option [when I filled out the form], though I do not work outside the boundaries of my family circle or have any degree that would entitle me to advise non-family members.  Whether it's on the soccer field today ("KICK IT") or their eventual careers after college, I'm here to tell them how to do it.  They don't have to listen, but I'll tell them anyway.  

.… In the meantime, I'm really busy and mostly surprised and pleased to have found the value and contentment that I have in the life I lead.

I was happy and proud.  I was in the thick of it, I felt needed and I was busy.  If I wasn’t writing that novel yet I could see a glimmer at the end of the tunnel where I might be able to do something “for me.”  I had a certain amount of guilt about all the outside-world promise I had not fulfilled, but as the above indicates, I was singing, “Always look on the bright side of life…” for all the world to hear.  

When the Ten-Years-Later follow-ups to Belkin’s article appeared last year,  my newly empty nest gave me the leisure to read most of them, starting with Judith Warner’s.  I learned some valuable things which I hope to share in the upcoming months.  For example, why didn’t the bright side stay all shiny, especially when my kids got older and I could and did start writing?  My answers, of course, are specific — to our family, my heritage, my friends, and where I live.   

By the way, a few weeks ago, I attended my 35th reunion.  And however bright — or not — my current outlook, the funny thing is I still felt right at home at Yale and with my fellow Yalies.  But more about that in another post.

1 reaction Share

It never occurred to me that I would be a stay-at-home mom.

It never occurred to me that I would be a stay-at-home mom.  

My plan:  I would use my ample salary as a sound editor and the time between individual film projects to create my own films, which would fall somewhere on the scale between “artsy” and “avant-garde,” and establish me as a Woman in Film.  I’d enter these gems in festivals and bask in their successes.  I knew I wanted children, but when that happened, I’d play it by ear.

By my late twenties, I had a great career going as a sound editor.  I was in the union and I was in demand.  But the first glitch in my plan had emerged — in between films, when I was supposed to be creating Art, I needed to recover from the seven-day weeks.  Do some laundry.  Balance the checkbook.  I wasn’t even sure I wanted to spend my life cutting sound — I had happened into it and I was good at it, but it didn’t compel me the way my husband’s career in film production did him.

And then, the game-changer: pregnancy.  My husband and I agreed that we’d be flexible — we’d alternate working and childcare between us. I had no idea how I’d feel post-birth, and I knew no other (female) sound editors with young children.   My husband was experiencing success, so his salary had begun to surpass mine.  It gave us the financial wherewithal so if I wanted to be a “stay-at-home mom,” I could.  

The film industry is tough on any kind of personal life.  Our first child was anxious by nature.  And I had my own plentiful anxieties and a (possibly pathological) sense of responsibility to my children, which I could not have foreseen before motherhood.   Between my early attempts at continuing to work when my eldest was a toddler, and what I’d have to call my intuition about what was right for all of us, I simply stopped trying to “have it all.”  

My sons are 26, 23 and 20 now.  They are what I am most proud of in this world.   But the world isn’t necessarily proud of me back.  My decision was absolutely the right thing for them.  I have not one shred of doubt about that.  However, now that they’re off leading their own lives (a wonderful thing to celebrate) I have to admit that I’m way behind.  I stayed home — as it turned out — to the detriment of my marriage, my resume and my bank account.

At the heart of my discouraging conclusion I see society’s deep distrust and dislike of what has been called women’s work.  Time spent with children — people who are uncivilized, selfish, uneducated and often difficult — is not intellectually stimulating, even if you happen to love children’s books, board games and team sports.  The hours are terrible and the rewards are ephemeral.  Talk to a preschool teacher about it (and so on up the school ladder).  If I want praise for my decision to stay home, it’s up to me to provide it, because I’m not going to find it elsewhere.  If I had even a ounce of native Zen (or came from a less ambitious background and social group) I’d have no regrets.  In another place or time, I’d be resting on my laurels.  As it is, I remain fiercely proud of my decision, and yet (not so privately now) deeply ambivalent. 

2 reactions Share

Women's Advocacy in US Government

The US recently claimed at disappointing 17th place on the Economist's "Glass Ceiling Index", an international comparison of gender equal treatment at work.  Earlier this year, the equal rights amendment for gender equality stumbled after an extended stalemate in Congress.  These recent international and domestic losses raise the question of who's accountable for the US' performance on gender issues.  We know that Obama throws weight behind women's reforms, such as his tour this week to discuss career opportunities with female college students, but few Americans could identify who's in charge of women-related policies beyond the President himself.  In fact, many may be surprised that the US organizes it's women's advocacy apparatus markedly differently from other nations, generally decentralizing women's advocacy roles more than other OECD countries and Asian powers.  Notably, the US government has no Cabinet-level gender equality office,  that may create gaps in our protection of women.

The lack of a central gender equality office sets the US apart from its developed peers.  Sweden, an all-star on women's equality and productivity, established a cabinet-level position for women's equality 60 years ago.  The UK introduced the position under Blair in 1997, a move that received enough attention to prompt a Lord to advocate for the male equivalent.   South Korea and Japan followed suit with a Gender Equality Bureau and Ministry respectively, both of which report directly to the PM.  Although the trend seems to be toward empowering women's bureaus abroad, as far as I can tell, an integrated, centralized office has never been tried at home.

The US replaces this type of cabinet-level role with offices lower in the organization trees of federal departments.  Each department is responsible for gender advocacy within a single public service, though we hope that these pieces would interface together to address holistic priorities for women:

 Table 1: Key Federal Departments with Women/Gender Focus

Public service

 

Agency

 

Description

Health

 

Department of Health Services Women's Health Division

 

The Office on Women's Health provides national leadership and coordination to improve the health of women and girls through policy, education and model programs.

Food Safety

 

FDA Office of Women’s Health (OWH)

 

Established by Congressional mandate in 1994, the office's mission of the office is to: Protect and advance the health of women through policy, science, and outreach and to advocate for the participation of women in clinical trials and for sex, gender, and subpopulation analyses.

Education

 

Women's Education Equity Program

 

This program promotes education equity for women and girls through competitive grants. The program designates most of its funding for local implementation of gender-equity policies and practices. Projects may be funded for up to four years.

Labor

 

U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau

 

The Bureau develops policies and standards and conducts inquiries to safeguard the interests of working women; to advocate for their equality and economic security  and to promote quality work environments

Business ownership

 

Small Business Administration: Office of Women's Business Ownership

 

The office's mission is to establish and oversee Women’s Business Centers in  the US to help women, especially those who are economically or socially disadvantaged, to start and grow their businesses

Foreign policy

 

State Department Office of Global Women's Issues

 

The office seeks to ensure that women’s issues are fully integrated in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy, to promote stability, peace, and development by empowering women politically, socially, and economically

Decentralizing power over women's issues surely has implications for American women.  What might our current structure miss?

While grocery shopping in Malaysia on Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised to find parking spots reserved for solo women to shorten their nighttime walk to their cars.  The reserved spots were introduced by the Ministry for Women, an office reporting directly to the Prime Minister.  The same office also introduced a women's marathon recently to raise money for women-specific causes.  To choose an example closer to home (at least historically), the UK Ministry of Gender Equality helped to legalize the  use of women-only shortlists in selecting parliamentary candidates, and banned employers from discouraging employees from discussing their pay (a practice that disadvantages generally lower-paid women).

I wonder whether our lack of a central office masterminding and coordinating efforts makes initiatives that fall between the purviews of specific departments less likely in the US?  Imagine a patient with the choice between five specialists or one integrated care doctor.  Seeing all those specialists separately can create gaps in diagnoses and treatments.  In the same way, a single entity empowered with a holistic view of gender equality conditions across policy-making domains may be best positioned to pioneer successful solutions.

Although Americans are inclined to keep powers decentralized and therefore in check, understanding the risks to the model will help us to plug the gaps.  The US boasts a very active women's advocacy private sector, with organizations such as Catalyst and NOW, but private groups cannot touch domains that are distinctly public (e.g. parking space allocation).  Responsibility for the space between federal agencies' may fall on individual politicians who happen to be women, but no representative should be held to (or relied on) to push any agenda.  Given that international benchmarks continue to show room to improve on behalf of women, it is worth considering whether our central government can do more to fill the spaces in between the dispersion of women's advocacy.

 

1 reaction Share

A Yale Woman in a Man’s World

Yale Women. In September 1972, our class consisted of 1000 MALE LEADERS and as a side thought, about 200 “girls.” Apparently THE alumni (you know, those old codgers with kids of college age, which is now us) wanted to be sure their sons would get in. I always wonder about their daughters—never mind. We knew we were a big change: after all, the first class that admitted women as freshmen were seniors our first year. Maybe I was at Yale because a girl from my high school was one of those ’73 women. 

Read more
1 reaction Share