It’s March and time to celebrate Women’s History Month! I have been watching a few programs about working women and the problems they face today…which are sadly quite similar to the issues they dealt with when I was a teen. So to start out I want to give a little background about my work experience.
I was in the 5th grade when the Women’s Movement started. The Mary Tyler Moore Show and ThatGirl were my role models. When I was a teenager, I really believed that I could bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan… that is until reality set in. It was 1977, I just became a mom and instead of staying in a tumultuous marriage, I chose to leave and raise my son alone. Back then, jobs for women were low paying… just like now! I did not have a college degree at the time but I had ambition. I worked in retail and restaurants for a few years, until one day I answered an ad in the local newspaper for delivery driver. The pay which was $10 an hour, was twice the amount I was making before and was a union job. I was hired on the spot because I was the only person to bring along a resume. I had zero experience delivering anything except I could drive a stick shift vehicle, so I continued to deliver auto parts for that company for the next several years.
I was happy with my paycheck but I had to put with a lot of crap from co-workers. Back then sexual harassment and harassment in general came with the job. And that was after the all the strides of the Women’s Movement. I’m sure there were many women who experienced some form of harassment in the workforce, but since I worked in a man’s field it was especially prominent. The guys at work just couldn’t understand why I didn’t find a husband to support me and my son and then I could give my job to a man who needed it to support his family. I learned a great deal about cars during that time and most importantly how to stand up for myself…I grew a thick skin. I learned to not take things personal. To this day, I am not one for mulling over problems and discussing them to death. If there is a problem, I look for a solution. Some of my female friends think this is a male attribute and that women are more suited to just discuss the issue and only want to be heard. My response to that is — who made up that rule? My guess it’s someone in Congress because they love to discuss things and never come to a resolution.
Fast forward to today and there are not only women delivering autoparts, they are in law enforcement, flying planes and running major companies. Lately, there have been interviews with so-called business savvy women… some are perceived as good role models and other’s not so good. There are a couple of women who stood out for me and I want to give my opinion about them…they are both successful but seem to have very different ideas about how to run a multi-million dollar company.
Let’s start with Marissa Mayer, the new CEO at Yahoo, whose remarks about the workplace drew a lot of criticism, and I have to admit I can understand why. Mayer earned a Bachelor of Science degree in symbolic systems and a Master of Science degree in computer science with a specialization in artificial intelligence from Stanford University. No one will argue that she is one smart woman but I think she lacks people skills, which is what people in management need to have. Managing does not mean bossing people around. Managing groups of people is hard, I worked in that position in the past and I learned that the best ones listened to their staff and created a work environment where people wanted to work and do a good job. Create a workplace that has low morale and you have a recipe for failure.
So Mayer decided to jump right in and declare that all employees are no longer allowed to work from home. For many working mother’s this now means they have to find daycare for their children. Anyone who has looked into the cost of daycare will agree, it’s pretty expensive. Mayer who is herself a new mom has allowed herself the convenience of bringing her baby to work and her office now is a combination office-nursery. Anyone who works in the tech field knows that the hours are very long. So working from home just makes sense to me for many reasons. Let’s start with the fact that there is one less car commuting to work that would add to the congestion and pollution problem. Then there is the flexibility factor, meaning if an employee has an appointment with a dentist or doctor, they can go and just makeup for any lost time by working late or on weekends. Working 60-80 hours a week leaves pretty much zero time to take care of life’s necessities, like staying healthy, and they can forget about spending quality time raising kids.
If Mayer thinks her employees will be more productive coming to an office or cubicle to works endless hours, then how about having a daycare on site? Remember, she gets to take her kid to work and I am all for equal treatment…I don’t care if they make a million a year or $30 thousand. Its all about morale and a happy worker is a productive worker. And while we are at it, throw in a small gym so employees can get their exercise. It’s proven that sitting at a desk all day long is unhealthy. We are already having a conversation about the health care system being out of control. Give people healthy choices…like access to a gym and the companies’ health care premiums should go down.
Bobbi Brown is well known in the make-up industry. She is married, has three children, has written six books and basically runs a self-made beauty empire. She says she never played by the normal rules of success and seems to have done just fine. One of her favorite charities is Dress for Success, a nonprofit that provides gently used professional clothing to low-income women trying to join the work force. Since she puts her own family before business, she understands the importance of her employees to do the same…like showing up at a child’s dance recital for example. Brown has not forgotten that her employees are human and have needs.
Brown is 55 years old and Mayer is 37. Could age be the reason why these two women have such different approaches to running a company ? Mayer didn’t have to work in the job market before harassment laws took effect. I read her bio and it seems that she grew up in a middle class home and did a lot of things little girls do, like take ballet lessons. I’m guessing she was also probably raised in a pretty sheltered environment. We also know that both women can afford and do have help taking care 0f their daily needs. The average working mom and dad, for that matter, do not. However, Brown seems to be in touch with her staff…she admits that she follows her gut when making choices. Mayer seems out of touch with the average working woman. Ok, maybe the people who work at Yahoo are no longer your average worker, they probably make a lot more money than the median income, but they still face the same issues all families do…juggling a stressful job and raising a family.
It seems to me all this rhetoric about entitlements coming from our legislators, like cut backs in children’s after school programs, which many parents rely on for daycare is echoed by the business world. The only thing they think workers are entitled to is a job and some even think that’s asking too much. They are definitely about their own bottom line and fail to see the bigger picture. It sort of relates to the I did this all by myself attitude. No one builds a business completely on their own and the same goes for ones who are hired to turn a company around. There has to be dialouge and that has to include workers.
Mayer gave her view on feminism in a recent interview :
I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist. I certainly believe in equal rights, I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so, in a lot of different dimensions. But I don’t I think have sort of the militant drive, and sort of the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that.
What!??? If it wasn’t for the Feminist Movement little Missy would be flying the friendly skies, emptying bed pans or teaching school kids. The only ladder she would be climbing would be the ones at the libray to shelve some books, while a co-worker tells her how great her legs look! Her comment tells me she is completely out of touch! We’ll see how fast she gets a chip on her shoulder if her boss hits on her. And don’t think for a minute that sexual harassment is not alive and well in the workplace — you know the saying — the more things change the more they stay the same?
If I had to choose, I would work for Brown or someone like her. She is the very definition of a Feminist and does not have a chip on her shoulder. Mayer on the other hand sounds like she might not have a chip but she thinks she is entitled to some perks she won’t even consider giving her employees. Only time will tell if Mayer turns Yahoo around or if the employees choose to find a more employee-friendly environment.