I've been working in my chosen career since I was nineteen years old. I started as a part-time college intern. Three, four, five days a week I would drop my books and notebooks off in my dorm room, change into something that vaguely resembled business attire (back in the days when women did *not* wear pantsuits. And I'm not even making that up. I remember when the first woman in the area started wearing pantsuits to work - not pants/tops as separates, but like a men's business suit but cut for a woman. No, it wasn't the 1980s. It was the 1990s for chrissake! Oh, right, I'm old. Erp.) and hop the train into the city to go to work. There were days when I had to make sure to work at least two hours, because if I only worked one, I didn't quite make the train fare to/from work (at my starting rate of about $6.37/hr.)
I've worked more years than I haven't. And I took time off to raise my kids. Because it's something that was important to me, but it was also something that was the right timing for us - my career had reached a lull, I had lost one job and a new job wasn't quite the right fit for me, so we reconsidered priorities, wrote a budget, and...I've blogged about this before.
But the thing that has always made my head burst into flames is the fact that I work hard, damn hard, and just as hard as anybody else (harder than some, too.) And I'm quick. And productive. And my time is worth it. This is even more important in the post-baby-working-years because I have these heart-stoppingly painful conversations with my 7 year old, who tonight at bedtime when I was reviewing the week's schedule and mentioning when I would be in the office, told me "we're not going to have to have a babysitter again?" Because last week once I had to have a sitter take care of the kids after school for a few hours so I could do a video shoot at work. And she noticed. And while the sitter does a nice job, and the daughter benefits from other people in the world caring about her and interacting with her, she just doesn't like it. So rip my heart out and serve it on a platter, shall we? Ugh. This part about working is not the best part, but I console myself with the idea that I'm working and contributing and setting a good example, and I've got a pretty great part-time gig that flexes around my family's commitments and lets me be the mom most of the time and...then I read this sort of shit and it makes my head burst into flames. (that article references this one which is where the actual combustion occurs)
Because HOW CAN IT BE 2011 and this is still happening?!?!?
And how can a writer write this passage and not have her own head explode into flames?
Simply put, many women—not all, but enough to have a big impact on the statistics—are willing to trade higher pay for other desirable job characteristics.
Because I just don't get it.
Meanwhile, the original poster (the one who I agree with) says the following:
I would also love to know why, if pay is so equal, women with kids are paid less than men with kids. I'm sure that some will explain it by saying that women decided to take time off to raise up the young'ins, and therefore lose market share. I can see how that would affect lifetime earnings. However, I am confused as to why, then, a woman who is employed at a job with the same experience as a man still earns less than he does.
I heard this from a company I worked with when first returning to the my field after a 5 year gap to raise my babies. "Oh, the industry has changed, technology is different, therefore we'll pay you this lower rate because honestly you're 5 years behind but aren't you lucky to get to work with us?"
I went on to do development on a project when I was only assigned to do design (tech friends will know these pay at VERY different pay scales - and my background is tracked more toward design, though I'm learning now how to spin things so that this isn't as much of a factor) and discovered that while I was off for 5 years, what the industry did was build authoring tools to automate much of what we used to have to code by hand. The industry just basically caught up with me, and gave me additional tools to work with. I wasn't behind in the slightest. I still get mad thinking about this experience. Bah!
As my friend Veronica (a nuclear engineer from Argentina, and someone else who has chosen to do the kind of sequencing I've done, taking time off to raise children, planning to come back again to the workforce in the future) says, "Infuriating. It is a double discrimination: one that considers that the work of raising a child (a human being!!!) is useless and another one that sentences a woman to a lower wage because she was "wasting her time" while everybody else was doing more productive things. It makes me furious. I think that before this pay discrimination disappears, society must recognize - and include in the economy - child rearing work. Until these activities are not seen for what they are (an indispensable contribution to the development of the human race) we will be punished for raising our kids."
Is that what it is? A punishment? Why aren't we all marching on our various government offices *now*? Oh, that's right, because there are school lunches to make, diapers to change, babies to nurse, field trips to chaperone, teenagers to equip with the skills to survive their adolescence. And work to be done.
I write on Suburban (In)sanity. I have two kids, two cats, a dog, a husband and a minivan. I live in the suburbs now and try to stay sane. Some days, I succeed.
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