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“It’s Not Flexibility”: What Women Really Want In The Workplace

What do women want? And why do they act the way they do?

These are not difficult or rational questions. The true question is, why is it that we’re in the 21st century and politicians and so-called scientific researchers are still pondering these questions as though women are some exotic, mute species that must be diagnosed?

The most recent offense comes from a CNN story—quickly scrubbed—reporting on a University of Texas San Antonio study on how women’s menstrual cycles affect the way they vote. Said the now-removed CNN post:

While the campaigns eagerly pursue female voters, there’s something that may raise the chances for both presidential candidates that’s totally out of their control: women’s ovulation cycles. Here’s how [researcher] Durante explains this: When women are ovulating, they “feel sexier,” and therefore lean more toward liberal attitudes on abortion and marriage equality. Married women have the same hormones firing, but tend to take the opposite viewpoint on these issues, she says.

It’s absurd to think that women universally “feel sexier” during ovulation (and if they do, it’s probably more because that’s the point where most women feel thinnest), but even more ridiculous to suggest this has anything to do with voting. Even if the statistics were true, there’s no cause-and-effect relationship established. If anything, it’s a mere statistical correlation, and one driven by a (wrong and offensive) default view that men are the control group of rationality, and whatever women do that deviates from that must be explained away as some sort of irrational deviation. The underlying assumption in many of these so-called studies—including all the ones about how women dress more attractively during ovulation to attract a mate during peak baby-making time (again, gentlemen, not so much—women I know dress for the occasion, for themselves, and for other women before they dress for men)—is that a woman’s real job is to find a mate and produce children. How convenient that the insulting thesis supports de facto policies that keep women in less prestigious jobs, paying them less for their work.

Then we have Mitt Romney, observing during a debate that one of the things he learned when he was staffing his gubernatorial office was that he needed to be “flexible” for the females. Said Romney:

I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.

She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

This is what Romney thinks women want in the workplace—”flexibility?” We all want flexibility—men and women—but it obscures an important point. Here’s what women want first in the workplace: money and power. The same as the men. Really, it’s a pretty simple equation. Opining that women are some special class needing “flexibility” so they can be home in time to make dinner for their husbands and kids is just another way of saying that home-making is a woman’s real job, even if it’s another thing she does in addition to working. It puts her husband’s job above hers, and gives license to every employer to treat women as less valuable—and thus, less compensated and promoted—in the workforce. And what about all those women who aren’t married and presumably don’t have wifely tasks? Well, they’re ruled by their hormones instead, if we are to believe the utter piece of garbage produced by the University of Texas.

It’s been quite some time since one of the original misogynist scientists, Sigmund Freud, asked, “What do women want?” It’s the 21st century. Candidates and researchers could just ask—and maybe listen to the answer.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World report, October 29, 2012

October 30, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Skewed Equilibrium”: Mitt Romney Is Wrong About The Wage Gap

Asked about the gender wage gap last night, Mitt Romney changed the subject. “What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a — a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that — that they would otherwise not be able to — to afford,” he said. Sensing that he was going to be forced to actually answer the question, Romney added, “I’m going to help women in America get — get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.”

There are so many half-formed assumptions and pseudo-promises here that it’s hard to know where to start, but let’s go to the basic premise: That the wage gap narrows when the economy is strong. That premise, so far as we can see from the data, is wrong.

“In good economic times, bonus payments, overtime hours and merit pay increase,” says Ariane Hegewisch, a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “Women are under-represented in the top echelons,” where compensation has soared in good times. “Women are less likely to work overtime,” she adds, and “research suggests that merit and performance-related pay still is a key area for gender discrimination.” There’s also research suggesting that “salary increases related to promotions might differ by gender.”

In fact, the recent economic woes actually narrowed the wage gap, because while both men and women suffered, men lost more ground, according to a 2011 IWPR analysis: “Real earnings for both men and women have fallen since 2010, by 0.9 percent for women and 2.1 percent for men.” That’s likely because male-dominated sectors like construction were hard hit in the recession. Since then, the majority of job gains in the recovery have gone to men, suggesting that (skewed) equilibrium will likely be restored.

 

By: Irin Carmon, Salon, October 17, 2012

October 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Loose Leaf Binders”: What Does Mitt Romney Really Want For Women?

Women watching the debate last night let out a collective “hallelujah”: issues of direct importance to our lives finally merited a mention. We got equal pay, contraception, Planned Parenthood, poverty and bizarre discussions of single mothers.

Mitt Romney tried hard to pretend he’ll come down on women’s side in these issues. But as is classic Mitt, his positions send mixed messages. What does Mitt Romney really want for women? What would he do to improve their economic outlook? It depends on which talking point you listen to.

Romney took a few opportunities last night to discuss the ways in which he wants more women in the workforce. When asked a direct question about equal pay, he sidestepped to talk about how few women tend to be represented in top political posts, bringing out his now infamous “binders full of women” story to describe how he asked aides to find qualified women to fill his cabinet as governor. He also talked about wanting women to have more flexible work hours and brought up the fact that women have lost a huge number of jobs in the recovery. All signs point to: Mitt wants to help women get to work.

But does he? First, there’s the debunk now being widely circulated claiming that the binders Mitt asked for were actually put together before he even asked for them—not to mention that a study found the percentage of senior-level positions he appointed to women actually declined during his administration. But these statements clash heavily with some other comments he’s made. When discussing early childhood education recently, he commented, “It’s an advantage to have two parents, but to have one parent to stay closely connected and at home during those early years of education can be very, very important.” Which gender tends to be that “parent” who stays out of the workforce to be home? It is overwhelmingly mothers.

There’s also a big question as to how much he really wants to help unemployed women get back to work. He may cite the statistic that 580,000 women lost their jobs in the last four years, but he rarely makes mention of why. I’ll fill in that blank: mostly because of public sector layoffs. Women have lost 383,000 government jobs since the beginning of the recovery, wiping out more than a third of their private sector job gains. Yet Romney has repeatedly said he wants to see fewer workers on the government payrolls, including teachers, who are overwhelmingly women. He’s yet to explain how those two viewpoints can coexist.

Mitt would also have you believe he wants fewer women living in poverty. When talking about rising poverty rates, he rightly pointed out that the majority are women. “There are three and a half million more women living in poverty today than when the president took office,” he said. “We don’t have to live like this.”

It’s true, Mitt, we don’t. Because we could be doing far more to support people who fall below the poverty line, particularly women, by shoring up programs that are failing them such as TANF (formally known as welfare) and child care assistance. Yet that’s not what he would do once in office. His running mate’s budget, which Romney has said he’d sign if it made it to his desk, would focus 62 percent of its spending cuts on programs that support the poor, such as food stamps, Medicaid and Pell Grants. There’s reason to believe Romney would go even further: he’s calling for about $2 trillion more spending on defense over the next decade than Ryan is, which would mean drastic cuts—about 40 percent across the board—in all other programs.

And then there are his feelings about single mothers. When asked a question about gun control, he inexplicably ended up talking about single mothers and how they are apparently at fault for gun violence. (Never mind studies that show no correlation between the two.) In his wandering response, he said, “We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the—the benefit of having two parents in the home—and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone—that’s a great idea because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically.” (Emphasis mine.) That sounds quite a lot like family planning to me. How does one plan a family? By using contraception to control fertility and have children when and with whom one wants.

And contraception did come up. Romney decided that last night to be on the pro side, stating unequivocally, “Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.” Unfortunately that’s not always his position. First, there are those around him who don’t share this view. The GOP platform, for example, calls for a personhood amendment, which would endanger some forms of contraception. Then there’s Paul Ryan’s statement that he and Romney would do away with co-pay-free birth control access as provided by the Affordable Care Act on “day one.” And, oh yeah, Romney has previously condemned that very provision himself, even supporting Senator Roy Blunt’s bizarre proposal to allow employers to refuse birth control coverage in their insurance policies if they feel icky about it.

For his part, President Obama pointed out that contraception is an economic issue for the women who need and want access to it. He also made a case for the Lilly Ledbetter Act, a bill that takes a step toward closing the gender wage gap (even though there is much more that needs to be done) while Romney offered up no policy solutions. Obama has previously proposed spending money to hire back some of the teachers who have been laid off in the crisis. He would expand Medicaid to cover more people living in poverty and has expanded Pell Grants and job training programs to help those living in poverty. Clearly there are ways Obama can be pushed to do more for women. But it’s not even clear which side Romney is on.

 

By: Bryce Covert, The Nation, October 17, 2012

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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