March 3, 2009


The readings this week shifted in focus from the rights of domestic laborers to the issue of what quantifies women’s work in the greater public sphere. Pink collar jobs dominated by women are often viewed as easy or lesser jobs than those traditionally held by men. Williams points out that it is the invisibility of the female body and lifestyle in blue and white collar jobs that needs to be reevaluated. A social space dominated by men leaves no room for the realities of what women are facing. But these realities are rooted in gender and social norms that none of these readings have discussed.

Continue reading "work " »

Addendum to Ledbetter!

In one of my other classes (that just took place tonight) our teacher brought up that many of the jobs that will be created by the stimulus package are in male dominated fields - construction, engineering, etc., while female-dominated fields, such as nursing, won't see much money (they may get some money from appropriations, but not from the stimulus). Whether or not this is indicative of a desire to put money in the hands of "heads of families," or if those jobs are just easier to create, I'm not sure.

Blog 4

The readings this week address the issues surrounding women’s place in the workforce. They bring to light what is valued by certain employers, and what types of workers encompass those values. A good example of this is right at the beginning of Joan Williams’ “Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It”, where a woman is being interviewed for a job and is hired only after “dropping” the idea of having children. Worker norms are tied to gender norms in the concept of work scheduling. Employers value workers that will be consistently available—it is economically wise for them to hire someone that they know will not need to take a maternity leave, i.e. men. Or is it? Williams brings up a wonderful point that it is currently economically wise to not hire women if there is a risk of having to work around family life and child bearing, but what if this job scheduling was redesigned? The article states that a redesigning of work in workplaces will actually make for a more successful business. So why not change? What is holding back employers? People in general resist change and our businesses are currently comfortable working in the “masculine norm”. This disparity disables the idea of equal opportunity. Gender discrimination is disabling women from positions that they are just as qualified as men to receive.

Blog #4: Inequality in the workplace

The readings address the different values placed on different types of workers by addressing the "ideal" worker. In our society, the ideal worker is a full - time employee who goes the extra mile; he/she works overtime more often than not, and gets ahead because they are recognized for the number of hours they put in on the job. However, this vision of the ideal worker is unrealistic because of employees who have families. Since it is traditionally the role of the mother who takes care of the children, it is most often women who suffer the most from this vision of the perfect worker. If full - time is expected for advancement, then the part-time status that most women and some men need at least some time in their lives is considered the anti - worker, someone who works to make some extra money but is content with never moving up. The alternative to this is women taking "women's" jobs where they can have kids and still be looked upon favorably while doing it. This expectation leads to discontent, obviously, and some of the solutions that feminists have come up to correct these skewed norms include deconstrusting work traditionally viewed as "men's" work to allow women to have jobs in the area, using the political system to fight agaisnt unfair discrimination in salary, and also changing schedules to allow both men and women to spend more time at home. I think that there will always be someone who is partially left out by proposed changes of action, because the changes are thought up by the people who have the biggest voice. However, there may be some people who would like to be a part of these changes but cannot, such as single parents who have to support their family alone and can't cut hours to part - time due to the lower paycheck. Also, workers who don't work in a business setting and can't necessarily work less, like people who are employed in entry - level jobs. To me, the idea that if we change schedules we can change the way people look at part - time and full - time employees by assessing the amount of work they get done, not the amount of hours, and I know that this can't work for everybody, but employers must try to get a system suitable to their unique work situation.

Blog 4

The reading gave many good examples of the strategies that the feminist movement has used in the past relating to the fight for equality in the workplace. I was given the impression that simply making the issue known and spreading knowledge about movement for rights is where it all begins, and women were able to start doing this when the number of women labor unionists rose to hundreds of thousands in the 1950's. Women were able to gain ground through this, and even though it did take a significant amount of time and effort, we have seen a change in gender expectations for the workplace even though it might not be complete as of yet. The incompleteness of the act really does frustrate me, however. Dorothy Cobble made wonderfully logical and statistical observations about the issues of gender discrimination, and it really just made me all the more sure that the fact that this discrimination is allowed is absurd. Another strategy she introduced, the concept of flexible working hours in order to maximize work productivity, loyalty, and convenience was actually fairly new to me. I really think that our workforce could benefit greatly if this idea was more widespread. Not only would women and men have the benefits of a more convenient schedule in relation to the family, but this reconstruction would create more available jobs to the general public, which reaches the population of unemployed persons, a group who was absent in Dorothy's discussion of our economic structure.

Comment of "4" posted by Abbie Engelstad

I absolutely love how you question the masculine work values. I have also been thinking things like this and wonder if this is “the way things should be done” then why are things so horrible right now! You many of the nation’s pitfalls and I also feel you could add to it the nation’s horrible reputation internationally. I feel that the previous “macho man” approach to foreign policy and the plan of action in Iraq has obviously not worked (excuse my oversimplification as well). I look forward to the next several years and the reevaluating I feel is to come, regardless of where anyone sits politically. I feel that after the last eight years that change is obviously necessary because if our economy, environment, unemployment, and social programs aren’t addressed, as much as we think things couldn’t get worse, they can and they will.

I do wonder how things would be different if the masculine work values would have been addressed years ago, if politics wouldn’t have been clouded by any alternative motives, and how the “feminine work values” would have handled present situations and past problems that have led our country to where we are now…overall, regrets are never beneficial and if we believe that as a country we can learn from our mistakes, to waste time wondering “what if” is trivial and our true goal should be what you said about rebuilding our system with new values and contemporary thinking.

Blog 4

I agree and disagree with many aforesaid items. First off, I do realize that “women’s work” is devalued and is not paid to its full extent. I also agree that many women are facing difficult challenges when it comes to having a career and being a mom. As a future business woman, I have had to challenge myself to think about what I would rather do: stay at home and raise my children or try to achieve a top level status. As I’ve been reading more and more articles and everyone’s blogs, I’ve come across a point that I think must be made. At home work is simply not paid a lot because it does not require extensive education or thought. How many 3rd graders can clean their rooms? A lot. How many high school students can do laundry and cook a meal? A lot. How many middle school adolescents babysit on the weekend for extra change? A lot. As a woman, I feel that paying someone to do simple work around the house so I can accomplish one of my many dreams is not hurting anyone – in fact, its beneficial to many. Growing up, many of my friends had full time nannies and operes. These relationships were beneficial to working mothers, the hired help, and the kids. Everyone was pleased with the arrangement and, quite frankly, it ended up being for the best. I know I want a few things in life – kids and a career. Hired help is one easy way to take a few of the simple things in life and get that off my back. If someone else doesn’t have a job, being a maid or a nanny sure beats working at McDonalds flipping burgers. As I look at different companies to be hired by, I’m impressed by how far they have come with maternity leave and benefits for working mothers. Yes, blue-collar and pink-collar workers are not as highly valued in society as white-collar workers; however, we’ve seen how well socialism in history works. And quite frankly, there will always be a stepping stone, no matter how hard we try to fix it. There is a difference in jobs and education and amount of work and responsibility. It may not be totally fair, but, as we’ve learned, life isn’t fair. This may sound harsh, but, hey, its what we've been told since we were little. You've got to make the best of what life throws at you. My mother always told me God never gives people more than they can handle. Thats a rule to live by.

Blog 4

Both Cobble and Williams came to the conclusion that blue-collared workers in our country are not highly valued. Furthermore, those few women who work as blue-collared workers are even less valued. One of the authors also mentioned how pink-collared workers (women in so-called "women's work") are considered less valuable then even the female blue-collared workers. This devaluation can be seen from the wages the pink-collared workers make in comparison to the wages that blue-collared workers (male or female) make;80 pink-collared workers make considerably less than blue- or white-collared workers.

What Williams was saying about flexible scheduling being more beneficial for corporations than non flexible scheduling really made sense. Those women with families are going to be unable to work for businesses that refuse to work around their families. Williams went further into saying how businesses need to make it alright for men to have flexible schedules as well as women. I agree with this idea; men might be more willing to help raise children and take care of the house if they are allowed to take time off or work part-time for the same wage. Also, allowing part-time workers to make the same amount as full-time workers would help to even out how women are viewed in the house; if women are able to significantly contribute to the household income, they might have more respect.

March 2, 2009

Blog Four

The Cobble reading informs us of the labor movement that existed during the period between first- and second-wave feminism. This movement was distinct from feminist ideals in that it addressed class differences in the labor struggle; it championed the pink- and blue-collared workers. Where feminism mainly concentrated on securing equal pay for equal work and upward job mobility for women, those in this “missing wave” realized that job differences in the work place can only be reconciled by addressing the social issues that relegate women to their secondary status.

In “Unbending Gender,” Williams addresses the challenges women face in the workplace. As women are relatively new to many fields of work, the employee norms that exist in those positions are very male-centric. A woman is less likely than a man to relocate her family for her job, have child-care and other domestic help from her spouse, or possess the physique required for many blue-collar jobs involving manual labor.

In addressing inequality in the workplace, feminists have concentrated on problems like pay differences and the glass ceiling. These emphases completely ignore the problems of women in low-paying, traditionally feminine professions, or the reasons why women choose those fields at all. Women who are secretaries, waitresses, or librarians have no glass ceiling to crash against, and the scarcity of men in these professions make the issue of equal pay less pressing. Women choose these conditions because of the flexible work schedules and leaves of absence they offer. They don’t have to work overtime in order to keep their job, and they don’t have to face serious consequences for taking maternity leaves. Also, as women constitute the majority of the workforce in these professions, they don’t face the sexual harassment or physical challenges that arise in blue-collar jobs. The pink-collar jobs are not desirable, but they are more desirable than trying to make it in the cutthroat white-collar world or the hostile environment of blue-collar jobs. To fully address the problems women face in the latter two professions, feminism needs to consider the social environment that systematically disadvantages the female worker model.


Williams taught us that huge segments of the work force are permeated with masculine norms--and women are forced to adapt to these norms if they wish to become successful.

I think, even in the last few months, this debate has gotten much more interesting. There is another layer we should be thinking about when we phrase these arguments:

How well are these masculine work values actually WORKING for us? Our economy is in shambles; every day we learn about new ways in which big business is corrupt to its core; blue-collar workers are being laid off in mass numbers; the environment is on the brink (which corporate pollution has a major hand in); Americans work more hours than anywhere else in the industrialized world (UN International Labor Organization), and what do we have to show for it? A struggling education system and a whole lot of debt. [Excuse the oversimplification]

Suddenly, in the wake of economic crisis, environmental instability, the highest unemployment we've seen in 16 years, and staggering rates of corporate consolidation both domestically and globally--this issue no longer stands solely in the category of social justice, it is now a necessity that we reevaluate the way we think about work, who participates, and what values we are promoting.
Our system as it stands is floundering, maybe even failing, which means we will have to rebuild it--which means we should start thinking now about how to create a model that includes new values, new definitions of an 'ideal worker', and new opportunities for those who have marginalized by this system in the past.

Week 4: Ledbetter!

This week’s readings showed how women have been met with, and dealt with, discrimination in the workforce. The Williams piece showed how “the mommy track,” equipment built for men’s bodies, devaluation of part-time work, and inflexible scheduling make it nearly impossible for women to thrive in many fields. The Cobble article detailed parts of the labor feminist movement – women’s (lack of) presence in the leadership of the labor movement, the equality vs. difference debate, and the struggle to include race and class concerns. But the reading that was most interesting to me was the Ledbetter brief. Challenging discrimination through legal channels seems not to have been completely successful. The Ledbetter legislation (which, as I understand it, made moot the decision of the Supreme Court, which upheld the 180 statute of limitations) was of course a huge step forward, I was pleased to read that the legislation finally acknowledged what the brief said: that pay discrimination is compounded over time, that there must be a reasonable amount of time for a plaintiff to become aware of the discrimination and decide to challenge it (it’s almost always going to be incredibly difficult to enter a lawsuit with children, or when the plaintiff is working class, which is exactly when the wages are needed the most), and that each paycheck is a sort of symbolic assault that becomes ongoing and never-ending. But there are still ways that the law cannot address pay discrimination, or even gets in the way. For instance, laws that don’t allow employees to fully unionize keep ALL employees from their potential agency and power. And laws that privilege business interests above all else will almost always come at the cost of employees. But as the Williams piece points out, accommodated employees are productive employees. Instead of measuring people’s (and I’m talking about Americans in general here) happiness or ability to thrive based on the number of businesses in the country, or state, or city, maybe more humanity-based indicators should be considered, such as whether or not wages are livable, or the ability to have meaningful work and a meaningful home life.

Blog #4

Equipment design is around men's body. This is where women are devalue. For example in my family I have a lot of sisters so there are a lot of daughters, which it takes more time to move into a new house moving furniture and other heavy equipments. We made four or five trips going back and forth, but for one of our relatives who have three sons it only took them two make two or three trips. I am always worry about moving because equipment is always design around men's body. There are a few times when I tell my mom that since we have a lot of heavy equipment I think if we move to another state I may plan to leave it and start all over again. My mom suggest that if you have money you can hire men to move all those heavy equipment. I guess this is a solution to moving, but I am not satisfy why would not these equipment design in a way that women can move those heavy equipment by themselves when there is no men around. This would only promote the image to family that has a lot of daugther to be "less civilize" vs. family that has more sons to be seen as "more civilize."

I don't know if there is a way...

Dorothy Cobble’s article pointed out some of the lost history of women’s labor organizing. Joan Williams’s article focuses on the giant hurdles women historically and currently have in achieving workplace equality. Both authors discuss mechanisms that keep generations of women blocked from advancement because of their gender and inability to participate in the mentality of “boys clubs.” The readings do highlight the different arenas that workplace struggles take place. Within blue-collar work, unions and location within worker-friendly companies determine the quality of life for workers. In a white collar position quality of life depends more on respect between colleagues and management and potential for advancement. However, both types of work are structured around the myth of the male worker. This becomes a difficult issue to address among feminists because we (feminists) have become so divided by the difference in levels of prosperity and privileges between classes of women. Women need to not follow a party line on these issues, but no matter what their position their mobilization should come from a common understanding that no matter what other factors are at play, women are never considered to be the de facto worker. Women are never the standard by which quality of work and quality of life are measured. After comparing the readings for this week, I come to the conclusion that no matter what kind of work is involved, the fight still comes down to man versus woman. Until machinery is designed for a variety of body types and sizes and until membership in a male brotherhood is irrelevant to job performance, we will all need to engage in the same fight. I don’t know that within the current politics of labor struggles and feminism that is going to be easy to accomplish.

question 4

Despite the many advances of women in the workforce, one basic underlying assumption has remained basically unchanged. Even today, “women’s work” (or housework and child-rearing) are regarded as less valuable than “real work” in the business or public world. Because these acts are not accorded a monetary value, our society does not see them as work but as something natural. It is simply accepted that women will have and raise children, because it is in their nature to do so. This understanding of the many different types of hard work that women do is problematic on a number of levels. First, it invalidates the assertion that women’s work is hard work, by transforming the various strenuous and challenging tasks mothers perform into something that is second nature, old hat, or matter of fact. Second, it forces women who want careers to carry a double burden of both their professional work and “natural,” or assumed work. This is because employers are discouraged from attempting to assist women workers, whose “natural” duties are made to seem minor and as if they should not interfere with a good worker’s productivity. Third, by regarding this work as womanly or as a part of a women’s essential nature, it makes solutions where men assume part of the responsibility difficult imagine (even counter-intuitive). There is nothing inherently male or female about the vast majority of household chores, including lawn mowing, dish washing, sweeping, toilet cleaning, going to the bank, making dinner, etc. What is true is that all of these activities have a cost- either in time, or labor, or materials. Our culture needs to stop associating certain chores and responsibilities with a certain gender and start acknowledging that all tasks have some cost in order for women to truly become equals in the workforce.

February 27, 2009

Question #4

The articles from this week brought up the issue of workplace equality as it applies to a wide variety of positions. The main difference that can be seen today in regards to workplace equality, or lack thereof, is between white-collar jobs and blue-collar jobs. While women have issues to deal with such as the glass ceiling and the maternal wall, at least they are able to, as Joan Williams states, “step onto the job ladders” in the white-collar industry. However, women are frequently unable to do even that much in the blue-collar industry. In this sense, while women have gained at least some ground in the white-collar industry, they have made little or no progress in the blue-collar industry because, as Joan Williams points out, the blue-collar industry is based on patriarchical physical and social ideals, which are much more difficult to overcome than the barriers experienced in white-collar positions since they are integrated into more concrete structures (pun). In the case of blue-collar jobs, gender norms drive the industry and dictate worker norms, such as policies based on overtime, which stifle a family-friendly environment.
On the other hand, while family-friendly and flextime schedules have become widely-used strategies, they seem to exclude single women who are not depended on to support a family, either financially or emotionally. However, with the implementation of proportional part-time benefits and pay, as well as job-sharing, all women, as well as men, will most likely be able to enjoy a balance between work life and social life, whether that includes a family or not.

Blog 4

How do the readings address the different values placed on different types of workers? How are worker norms tied to gender norms? What strategies have feminists used to address inequality in the workplace, and whose needs and contributions have not been recognized by traditional feminist strategies? Can the same strategies successfully address the needs of workers across the spectrum of jobs?