Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Women in the workforce

Women do not need anything else to feel guilty about. Guilt is a driving force for most women. Mothers feel guilty when they stay at home with their kids, because they are not earning an income. They feel guilty when they depend on their husbands for support. They feel guilty when the take that full time job because they end up too tired to put their full energy into their kids, their husbands, and their homes.

Women worry all the time about looking their best, not so much for themselves, but for others. They want to be gourmet chefs, choosing healthy fresh organic foods to put on the table in style, but generally, then find themselves heating up some frozen concoction they found on sale in the grocery store. Either that or they grab a McMeal to eat in the car while playing the role of soccer-mom-taxi-driver.

Women feel guilt more times per day than adolescent boys think about sex, and folks, that’s a lot!

So it is not surprising that Leslie Bennett’s new book “The Feminine Mistake” is creating a roar of controversy with devoted stay at home moms. But before they dismiss her as the devils advocate, they would be wise to take a relaxing Calgon bath, and curl up with this remarkable eye opening book.

Bennett’s point is not to condemn the stay at home mom for her choice to nurture her children. Rather, it is a book of research and facts on the economics of motherhood which lets these women know exactly what they are in for.

The research compiled for The Feminine Mistake makes it clear that women who opt out of the workforce to stay at home with their children are making a definitive and quantifiable economic choice with long term ramifications.

A press release from Hyperion publishing states:

THE FEMINIST MISTAKE explains how when women give up careers, the loss in income has a cascading impact on medical benefits, retirement funds and other long-time financial needs. And sadly, Bennetts exposes how the much-vaunted concept of the on-ramp -- the track for talented women to rejoin the workforce following some years at home-- does not exist. Women are finding out too late that motherhood and community service too often still does not translate in HR departments as viable skills.

There is a solution to this problem that will make women stand up and cheer; One that has been sitting right under our noses for over two decades.

Twenty five years ago, colleges and universities around the country predicted new trends of work from home, job sharing, flex time and telecommuting would be the wave of the future as personal computers and technology integrated into our lives.

Sadly, that shift has not occurred. In order to be competitive in the workplace and secure opportunities for advancement, dedicated employees are expected to work forty to sixty hours per week, and make personal sacrifices for the good of the company. This puts women with children at a severe disadvantage in the workplace.

In the United States, we think of our nation as a family. We say our children are our future, yet again and again, we undervalue this concept, in every economic and social policy we create. Our schools are under funded, our teachers underpaid, our daycare facilities for working mothers are abysmal, and the very structure of our work model handicaps families and limits their ability to put the devotion they desire into the very areas we claim to cherish.

Since the beginning of time, women have worked along side their husbands while simultaneously caring for their children. From the Hunter gathering period of pre history thru the agricultural age, women provided food, wove baskets, made pottery, created clothing, tended livestock, built homes, and reaped the harvest, right along side their spouses.

The modern industrial ages represents a short blip in the long timeline of history. And this is the core of our modern dilemma. Women can no longer contribute to the workforce as they always have when the modern structure of society separates work from home.

What is needed is a reintegration. Technology makes this possible. Women know this instinctively. They realize modern corporate structure is damaging to their families, because in spite of statistics, they KNOW as mothers and wives, the love and caring they provide for their families is in fact important. So, they leave the corporate world and either opt out to stay home, or become entrepreneurs. They become freelance consultants, small business owners, part time employees, or seek jobs in the school system that will allow them to share schedules in sync with their children.

While you can tell a woman this is an economic mistake, it will do no good to poke a stick at a mother bear willing to sacrifice her very life to protect the cubs in her den. Forcing a bear to abandon her cubs to join the circus with the promise of free food and treats is no solution. We must find a better way.

Women represent half of our national workforce. If our country is to remain vibrant and strong we must address the issues of working mothers and create opportunities for women to be competitive without sacrificing their role as the primary caregiver of their families.

A few simple and long overdue changes will dramatically improve the net worth of American families, and have a positive effect on our nation’s children.

If we provide incentives for corporations to implement family friendly models including work from home, telecommuting, flex time, job sharing, and on site daycare services, we will provide working parents opportunities to remain in thriving careers commensurate with their abilities, while devoting larger portions of time to the needs of their families. We can also use the legislature to encourage policies which reward parents for community service and mentorship in the public schools.

If we create small business incubators through local government programs to increase the success rate of entrepreneur ventures, this too will provide opportunities for devoted hard working parents, who agonize over the choice between career and family and look for opportunities for flex time scheduling.

If these new models become widely available to both men and women, the balance between work and home will not fall exclusively to women, but will become a partnership of childrearing within the marriage, (and provide significant advantages for single parents too.)

When parents can remain viable and active in the workforce, in career positions commensurate with their skill levels and abilities, offering higher wages and better health coverage, the overall economic outlook for our country will see the positive effects of the increased spending power of the middle class. Children will recieve the attention they need, communities will thrive socially as well as economically, and corporations will reap the benefits of a thriving growing economy.


Writer Mom said...

Woo Hoo! I was so excited to read this.

Can you also manage more funding for the arts? :)
I know. SO much to do.
My heart is with you.
I am so hopeful you can turn things around in Ohio and provide a model for neighboring states.
Good luck!

Kelley Bell said...

Are you kidding?

The National Endowment for the Arts was my big cause when I was in college. That was back in the day when Senator Jessie Helms was all up in arms over the work of American photographer Andres Serrano.

I wrote several papers on the subject, and have been a big fan of Bill Moyers ever since.

Dont worry, the arts are in good hands with me. I understand the complex relationship between the arts and democracy: The arts simply do not exist in countries without free speech.

(And its interesting to note that federal funding for the arts in this country has dropped radically in the past decade.)

I'm not trying to sound radical here...just noting the correlation, yanno.

Have you joined my DFA group yet?
If not, please do. The bigger my list grows, the better!

Glenda said...

Wonderful post, Kelley! Would you consider letting us run this at the Peace Train?

Kelley Bell said...

Sure Glenda.
I would consider it an honor.
Thank you.

Just add
in the tag line.

glenda said...

Thank you, Kelley..we will definitely add your tag and send them your way!!

Glenda said...

Oh, forgot to say, it will run tomorrow!! your political website and Rosie the riveter picture of your grandmother. I left you a personal message there.

We'll link to both sites.

Want to write a piece sometime on why women should run for political office??

beckyboop said...

That's right Ms. Kelley! Wonderfully written. I keep my bags packed for the for the frequent guilt trips. The last few months, my husband has been working part time and although money is tight, it is working well for us. With him being home, it relieved some of the guilt and has done wonders for my 15 year old. My job allows me 32 paid flex hours a year. Although this helps, it isn't nearly enough. Hopefully in time, we will enjoy all of the benefits mentioned here.


Octogalore said...

Kelley, great post. The book is controversial, but it's information we all need. Terry Hekker's story should be a wake-up call.

scarletm said...

How serendipitous. I just found this post in the comments at Bitch, Ph.D., and thought I'd mention my own very similar post from yesterday. In a nutshell: men are happy when they are happy; women aren't happy unless everyone else is happy, too. More at

geosmythe said...

I am going to mention this post on Blog Writers and Artists Network tomorrow. Not only informative, but so necessary.

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