photo blog_head_zpsfzwide7v.jpg
Valar Qringaomis

Get email updates of new posts:        (Delivered by FeedBurner)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

More feminism, less gender equality

Do women really have it better in Sweden?

"Oh, to be in Sweden, a feminist paradise on Earth! Gender equality is baked into the nation’s DNA...

The country is zealously tearing down the barriers that hold women back. Preschools go to extraordinary lengths to encourage non-gendered play. One school is experimenting with a gender-neutral pronoun, “hen,” so that kids will think of one another not as boys or girls but as “buddies.” Gender-neutral toy catalogues show boys playing with dolls and girls playing with water guns. Some Swedish movie theatres have introduced a gender rating for films, called the Bechdel test. (To pass, a movie needs to have at least two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.)

Sweden and the other Nordic nations always seem to lead the rankings of the world’s best countries for women. (Canada is lucky to crack the top 20.) So they’re an ideal laboratory for finding out what women really want. What choices will women make when the playing field is as level as social policy can make it?

I’m afraid the answers will disappoint a lot of people. That includes Sheryl Sandberg, the famous author of Lean In, who wrote, “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies, and men ran half our homes.”

The trouble is that the world’s most liberated women aren’t leaning in – in fact, many are leaning back. They work fewer hours and make less money than men, just as Canadian women do. In fact, Swedish women are much more likely to have part-time jobs and far less likely to hold top managerial positions or be CEOs. On top of that, Scandinavian labour markets are the most gender-segregated in the developed world.

Women do make up 25 per cent of Swedish corporate boards, but only because of quotas. The greatest concentration of senior managers, CEOs and other highly paid power women isn’t in Scandinavia. It’s here in North America, where working women’s lives are much tougher.

It turns out that all these family-friendly policies have an unintended impact on the gender gap, as Kay Hymowitz and many others have noted. By making it easy for women to drop out of the work force and work shorter hours, they make it harder for women to progress in their careers. Swedish men have these options too, but they don’t take them. So women don’t advance as far as men. And they are also considered less desirable by corporate employers who need people on the job 24/7.

In any event, only a small proportion of Nordic women choose to work as managers and professionals. Most choose lower-paid, highly gender-segregated work. As Alison Wolf has written in her excellent book The XX Factor, Scandinavian countries “hold the record for gender segregation because they have gone the furthest in outsourcing traditional female activities and turning unpaid home-based ‘caring’ into formal employment.”

Despite vigorous efforts to stamp out gender stereotyping, most Swedish girls would still rather be daycare workers and nurses when they grow up. And boys would rather be welders and truck drivers. And that’s not all. To the extreme chagrin of social engineers throughout Scandinavia, mothers still take the bulk of parental leave. Most men take parental leave only when a certain part of it is designated for fathers only.

Here’s an even more alarming possibility. What if people in the most developed countries are inclined to express greater gender differences, not less?

Studies of people in more than 60 countries around the world have found that much of gendered behaviour is culturally universal – men in all cultures tend to be more assertive and less emotionally expressive, while women are more nurturing and co-operative. But according to one startling research report, the divergence between male and female personality traits is more marked in highly developed countries...

Where do women have it better? That probably depends on how you define “better.”

If you define it as “high female pay and occupational success,” you’d choose North America. If you define it as “achieving work-life balance, with broad social supports and plenty of time for family and personal development,” you’d probably choose Sweden. There is no one right answer, only different ones.

As for how you get more women to lean in, I honestly don’t know. It’s hard to make them if they don’t want to."

***

What 'Lean In' Misunderstands About Gender Differences - Christina Hoff Sommers - The Atlantic

"There is much to admire in Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead...

But this otherwise likeable and inspirational self-help book has a serious flaw: It is mired in 1970s-style feminism. Nation magazine columnist Katha Pollitt compares Sandberg to "someone who's just taken Women's Studies 101 and wants to share it with her friends." What Pollitt intends as a compliment goes to the heart of what is wrong with Lean In...

Sandberg excels at the forward edge of economics and technology, but her sociology leans back to the Age of Aquarius. She praises to the skies Marlo Thomas's 1972 unisex album "Free to Be You and Me." She wants to bring back consciousness-raising groups, calling them "Lean in Circles." Women are advised to meet together and carry out "Listen, ask, and share" exercises. Sandberg's "Lean In" website provides "exploration kits" for these séances. One instructs group members to go round the room and finish sentences like "What I am most looking forward to in the month ahead..." and "Today I am feeling..." Is this how Mark Zuckerberg got to the top?

Sandberg's goal is to liberate her fellow Americans from the stereotypes of gender. But is that truly liberating?...

"It looks as if personality differences between men and women are smaller in traditional cultures like India's or Zimbabwe's than in the Netherlands or the United States. A husband and a stay-at-home wife in a patriarchal Botswanan clan seem to be more alike than a working couple in Denmark or France."

Why should that be? The authors of the study hypothesize that prosperity and equality bring greater opportunities for self-actualization. Wealth, freedom, and education empower men and women to be who they are. It is conspicuously the case that gay liberation is a feature of advanced, prosperous societies: but such societies also afford heterosexuals more opportunities to embrace their gender identities. This cross-cultural research is far from conclusive, but it is intriguing and has great explanatory power. Just think: What if gender difference turns out to be a phenomenon not of oppression, but rather of social well-being?

Consider, in this regard, the gender disparities in engineering. An article on the Wharton School website laments the paucity of women engineers and holds up China and Russia as superior examples of equity. According to the post, "In China, 40 percent of engineers are women, and in the former USSR, women accounted for 58 percent of the engineering workforce." The author blames workplace biases and stereotypes for the fact that women in the United States earn only 20 percent of the doctoral degrees in engineering. But perhaps American women earn fewer degrees in engineering because they don't have to. They have more opportunities to pursue careers that really interest them. American women may be behind men in engineering, but they now earn a majority of all Ph.Ds and outnumber men in humanities, biology, social sciences, and health sciences. Despite 40 years of consciousness-raising and gender-neutral pronouns, most men and women still gravitate to different fields and organize their lives in different ways. Women in countries like Sweden, Norway and Iceland enjoy elaborate supportive legislation, yet their vocational preferences and family priorities are similar to those of American women.

In a 2013 national poll on modern parenthood, the Pew Research Center asked mothers and fathers to identify their "ideal" working arrangement. Fifty percent of mothers said they would prefer to work part-time and 11 percent said they would prefer not to work at all. Fathers answered differently: 75 percent preferred full-time work. And the higher the socio-economic status of women, the more likely they were to reject full-time employment. Among women with annual family incomes of $50,000 or higher, only 25 percent identified full-time work as their ideal. Sandberg regards such attitudes as evidence of women's fear of success, double standards, gender bias, sexual harassment, and glass ceilings. But what if they are the triumph of prosperity and opportunity?

Sandberg seems to believe that the choices of contemporary American women are not truly free. Women who opt out or "lean back" (that is, towards home) are victims of sexism and social conditioning. "True equality will be achieved only when we all fight the stereotypes that hold us back." But aren't American women as self-determining as any in the history of humanity? In place of bland assertion, Sandberg needs to explain why the life choices of educated, intelligent women in liberal, opportunity-rich societies are unfree. And she needs to explain why the choices she promotes will make women happier and more fulfilled.

An up-to-date manifesto on women and work should steer clear of encounter groups and boys-must-play-with dolls rhetoric. It should make room for human reality: that in the pursuit of happiness, men and women often take different paths. Gender differences can sometimes be symptoms of oppression and subordination. But in a modern society they can also be the felicitous consequences of liberated choice—of the "free to be you and me" that women have been working towards for generations."


Generous Work/Family Policies Don’t Guarantee Equality | Family Studies

"Lone parents in every country are almost always women, a perplexing and growing problem for by-the-numbers egalitarians... absolute parity between mothers and father at work and at home remains a fantasy that actual women and men both in the United States and abroad show few signs of wanting."
blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Latest posts (which you might not see on this page)

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes