Recently, I was going through some recipes files and found an old newspaper clipping from the Press-Gazette about a new bakery café in Fish Creek, called Sweetie Pies, along with some pie recipes. The bakery café was a pie bakery, started by a single mom. Being the 21st Century Miss, I hopped on line, and low and behold Sweeties Pies is still around. (see above) Score One for a woman-owned enterprise. (Score Two for small business, Score Three for small towns and Score Four for dessert. 🙂 )
Which is in contrast to coverage in today’s Washington Post about the success (or lack thereof) of women in “STEM” (Science Technology Engineering and Math) fields. (Note: I am wondering how this article wound up on the Style page.) Recently, I attended the semi-annual conference of the American Chemical Society, where the Women’s Chemist Committee announced that the number of women in management positions in the Chemicals industry has actually decreased in recent years. Women are doing OK in educational environments in Chemistry, but this isn’t translating to success in employment (even in academia). There have been similar reports on the success of American women in corporate environments generally, as well as politics.
Years ago, I was at a conference. The topic was corporate social responsibility. The big evening social mixer was held at a science museum. On the way to the reception, I rode up in the elevator with a group of strangers, it was the end of the day and everyone was in that relieved-to-be-done-with-the-hard-stuff-and-ready-to-hang-out mode. When we got on the elevator to ride to the floor with the reception, I noticed that our destination was the “Math Floor”. Being me, I said (to no one in particular), “Yippee! The Math Floor, I love Math!” A gentleman on the elevator (who would now be about 50) said in response, “In MY day, girls didn’t like Math.” I responded in a calmer, more measured tone, “I was a Math and Chemistry major in college. I’ve always liked Math.” He paused and repeated, “In MY day, girls didn’t like Math.” I responded, “I guess it’s not your day anymore.”
Sadly, I think it still is that guy’s day. Keep in mind this was a corporate social responsibility conference. These are supposed to be the goofy, Birkenstocks wearing granola crunching types, to the extent that such exists in corporate America. Fifty-something is the heart of the corporate decisionmaking demographic, so Mr. Girls Don’t Like Math is currently calling the shots on helping bring his company into the 21st century of gender blind, among other things.
I’ve been loudly lectured chapter and verse numerous times by older women about how they broke down all the barriers and how much things have changed and how easy women my age have it in the workforce. I have a personal policy that I never tell anyone else their life is easy. Actually, I try to not even think it. I figure I really don’t know enough about someone’s circumstances to say if their life in easy, hard, easier or harder compared to mine or what not.
Whatever you view as the underlying cause, the empirical evidence is that American women are not progressing in the workforce as many would have hoped and as much as they have in other countries. Discussing causes is hard; not necessarily because it is tough to identify. Implementing fixes? Well, first you have to get consensus that it needs to be fixed. I think part of the challenge with the latter is getting consensus that the former is a problem that needs to be fixed. I really just don’t think we have that.
Eight years ago, the Supreme Court revisited the issue of Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action in education and determined that in the 25 years since Bakke, progress had been made, but conceded the work was not complete. The opinion suggested that in 17 more years, there would be no more need for diversity programs in education admission. I’m really not sure that work is *ever* done. I’ll grant the Supreme Court jurisdiction over the Constitution, I do not grant them final say over Human Nature and social progress.
So, rather than criticizing the WaPo for placing the article in the C Section, maybe I should be glad it ran at all. The bit at the end about giving pep talks to 18 year-old women starting college sounds hauntingly familiar, from when I was a late teenager.
I think this is one where I’d like to be in the Middle. Right now I’m not sure where I am, maybe I’m on the sidelines, maybe I’m in Siberia. But once more, for the record, “I was a Math and Chemistry major in college. I’ve always liked Math.”