Sunday, February 14, 2010

Women at Work

The Bright Side
Many of you might have heard that women are on the brink of becoming 50% of the workforce. Personally, I believe that this is truly a social milestone in the world's history. Women have finally been able to break through social barriers and make up half of the working class. Better technology, an increasingly egalitarian society, contraceptives, and access to higher education have opened millions of doors to women around the world. Ever since the world economy changed from the days of the hunter-gatherers, men were dominating the work force because of the demand for physical labor in agriculture (female physical labor ≠ male physical labor at that time). But, as our economy increasingly shifts to the service side, women have a better say in the labor market (potential of female brain = potential of male brain).

The Not-So-Bright Side
Now all that sounds wonderful, but wait, there's a catch. All this female empowerment comes at a price. Higher positions on the corporate ladder still prove elusive to the majority of women because a more lucrative job often requires more demanding work hours. If you are a mother of three children, more work hours don't exactly fit into your schedule, now do they? So here's the problem, many women are forced to choose between two options: a successful career and motherhood. Many fear that as women yearn for higher positions, their families will be neglected and the quality time will decrease. 

The Solutions!
More and more companies have embraced working at home and have made work a more family-flexible environment. While only a few countries have extended child care opportunities, other countries can certainly follow their example and set aside a larger percentage of taxes to having schools offer after-school activities. As society adjusts to this milestone, big companies must also as well. 

Question of the Post: How do you think companies can better adapt to this social milestone?


  1. I think part of the issue is the way women think of themselves and present themselves: If their goal is to get married and have kids without staying in the workforce, then there's no financial incentive for businesses to keep them on. It doesn't make financial sense for businesses to keep workers that are going to leave after a few years once they train them, deal with health insurance, etc.

    On the other hand, increasing numbers of women in colleges and university are very promising, indicating they're going to pursue more high level jobs (the disparity is partially because some men might enter lower-education jobs directly after high school)

  2. I think that the stigma associated with any stay-at-home for male or female should be eradicated. I think that housework is major work, and this is as respectable as any "profession." I also agree with Olivia's point.
    Thanks for the post!

  3. Your assertion that the potential of a female brain equals that of a male brain needs a bit of thoughtful research.

    Take, for example, mathematical ability. Research indicates that the arithmetic mean of mathematical IQ for men and women is pretty much the same, but that among large populations, the standard deviation is much different. Thus, we find in the real world that more men than women have superior mathematical capabilities. Left unsaid is that we also find more men than women are mathematical morons. That is, the shape of the bell curve for men is wider; the shape of the bell curve for women is much narrower.

    Why? As we all know, men are XY and women are XX. If extreme mathematical ability is a recessive gene on the X chromosome, then for a woman to express the trait, she would need to inherit it from both parents. For a man to express the trait, it needs to be on the sole X chromosome inherited from his mother.

    It turns out the population of mathematical abilities (both superior and inferior) match up pretty well to the forecast based on it being a recessive characteristic on the X side.

    But interesting reading nonetheless.

  4. Your assertion that the potential of a female brain is the same as that as a male brain requires a bit of research.

    Take for example mathematical ability. It is generally accepted that when it comes to math IQ, men and women have about the same arithmetic mean (simple "average"). But that doesn't tell the whole story.

    There are more men with superior math IQ than women. What usually is unstated but also true is there are more men with inferior math IQ than women.

    So, the shape of the bell curve for women is different than that for men - it is a taller, narrower bell curve.

    What accounts for this?

    Assume extreme math IQ (both superior and inferior) is a recessive characteristic present on the X chromosome. Men are XY, of course, and women are XX.

    Thus, for a woman to exhibit the recessive trait, it must be present on both Xs and thus inherited from both parents. For a man to exhibit the recessive trait, it only need be present on the single X - he only needs to inherit it from one parent (the mother).

    When you examine the mathematical probabilites, it turns out the exceptional math capabilities (both superior and inferior) match up to the forecasts very well.

    Of course, nurture has something to do with it as well, but at the end of the day, it appears that womens brains really are different from men's brains.

  5. Very provoking post. Like someone mentioned, housework is regrettably undervalued.

    There needs to be an assertion on the role of delivering their part on quality of life for everyone irrespective of their sex.

  6. I completely agree with you, Saloni! Companies need to offer more part-time work options as well as work from home options for women who want to stay at home and raise their little ones as well as take care of their home. I found myself just giving up a career in high-tech to have a more satisfying family life and running a household.

  7. Hi Miss Economist!! I loved your article and I agree with you on all the above mentioned points.I also agree with Olivia that women themselves have to realize their importance and their value as economic contributors.I have illustrated this in my article "Feminism or Humanism" which you can visit through my blog.

    I think another way by which we as women can make an egalitarian society is by rising up to the power roles as politicians, bureaucrats, and policy makers. By doing this we can make more gender free laws and establish a better and fair world. I would appreciate if you will go through my another article in my blog "Women and State".

  8. Hey!! My apologies for not giving my blog address it's:


  9. Hi! I just came upon this blog and couldn't resist commenting on this. (FWIW, I'm a woman who went to a top-5 law school, was a successful investment banker and corporate attorney, and now stay at home full-time to raise my two children.)

    After 10+ years in the workforce I feel that it's not really businesses which need to adapt, it's us. I wish I could say the opposite, but in my experience most women who juggle family and work usually let the work slip - someone has to take the lion's share of parenting/home management, and it's almost always the woman. It's terribly inefficient to work with a female worker who has kids... and it's not their fault! Their kids aren't faring too much better than the coworkers either. Daycares, extended school programs and after school activities all try their best, but nothing can beat a PARENT when it comes to parenting. Asking businesses and co-workers to help pitch in further by taking on more responsibility on work projects, which is what effectively happens when one parent is trying to manage this 'full time second job' from work, is simply unfair and inefficient, both economically and time-wise.
    How about looking at how our society as a whole is doing, and what women can do to contribute to that, rather than just focusing on the small sliver of it that workforce involvement represents?

    Obviously I didn't think this way when I graduated near the top of my class from high school/college/law school; but I didn't know the nuances of each of these jobs and issues then either. I'm thankful that, when I had to make a choice between professional fulfillment and familial, I had the fortune to have a choice financially, an appreciative husband, and enough self-esteem to trade the six-figure paycheck for baby hugs. No one has it all; the point is to love what you have and to feel like you made a real difference, isn't it?

    I hope there's a day when women feel good about whatever they are doing and stop thinking "what if?" - that's true feminism to me.

  10. Hi everyone! Apologies for not replying sooner, but thank you so much for your interesting input! I really appreciate it.

    @Olivia: I would think that women would eventually decide between a family life and a professional career. Perhaps companies should ask all their employees their future plans before hiring them? But I agree that we can be optimistic as more women are in college than men, improving their chances of attaining higher positions in their fields. Thanks for your thoughts!

    @Nilesh & @Bhavna: I agree that stay-at-home fathers and mothers are undervalued. They are often said to do the work equivalent to a job with 6 figure salary. Thanks for reading!

    @Anonymous who posted on Feb 24: Thank you for views! When I meant "potential of female brain = potential of male brain" I was referring to equal employment practices. Employers cannot discriminate between men and women even if their brains work differently but thanks for the insight!

    @Anonymous who posted on March 7: Thanks for your kind words! Your story definitely resonates with many women's out there!

    @Mansi: Thanks for sending me your blog link! You're article was great! I agree, one way to achieve equality is definitely to have more female representatives in the upper echelons of the working world!

    @Anonymous who posted on April 11: First of all, thank you for your contribution to the women in the working world! You are truly inspiring! I agree, sometimes we do need to step back and reevaluate the big picture.