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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Politically Incorrect, But True

While sitting in my hotel in Warsaw Indiana Thursday I happened to channel surf past Charlie Rose's show. Normally I don't watch him but he does occasionally have some good stuff on, Thursday it was Jack and Suzy Welch.

Jack is the former CEO of General Electric, and the author of a bunch of books about winning in business since he left the company, and Suzy is the former editor of Harvard Business Review, where she met Jack (while he was married).

I wish I'd caught the whole show, instead of just the last few minutes, but so goes life sometimes.
Anyway, Suzy made a great statement, that she admitted was politically incorrect, but it's true. She claims that 90% of the "glass ceiling" that exists for women is no longer something put in place by men, but women themselves.

Feminists don't want women like Suzy running around shooting off their mouth, because well, what she's saying is true. Yes, there are a few isolated pockets of men who still think girls shouldn't do anything that doesn't involve a pot roast and nursery, but most of them have been rooted out of business.

What Suzy said was that women now make choices, and some of those choices either stop, or substantially slow, their rise to the top in business. Many of those choices involve families, which is where it gets tough for people to separate logic from emotion, common sense for hyperbole.

The arguement from the feminist groups has always been that a woman shouldn't be punished for making sure a child gets a good start in life by having mom around. The truth is, she isn't being punished, she's made a choice (something feminists generally like women to have), and that choice had consequences.

If you take Man A and Woman A and start them in school at the same time, they both graduate high in their class, the fact is they both have the ability to make it to the top. However, if either decides, for whatever reason to take a one or two year break from the rat race, that rise slows or stops.

Time and tide waits for no man is a phrase that comes to mind; when we leave a job, for whatever reason, the world doesn't stop waiting for us to come back. Things change in any industry, and that time away has to be made up.

Here's an example, from a guys perspective and experience. My last job, working for US MegaCorp (or a maybe a large defense contractor) involved teaching very specific applications of certain naval weapons systems. However, by choice, I hadn't been involved with those items for nearly four years when I took that job. In that four years software, hardware, and tactics for it's use had changed considerably. I wasn't immediately given a slot as a senior instructor, and put on the podium to teach something I was no longer familiary with. I had to spend the better part of six months relearning equipment, tactics, and programs, THEN I could start teaching.

Why people would expect that a woman coming back from a few years off to raise children would have it any different is a little beyond me. The world didn't stop and let me catch up when I chose a different career path, why would it because someone chose to raise children?

When you look at OPM and BLS tables concerning employment you find women generally have less time on the job than men, and less education in most cases. Regardless of reason, those two factors play significantly in the amount of pay someone is going to get. Those tables blow the "equal work, equal pay" theory out, since it appears most women haven't got the equal work (time on the job) part of it down.

When you look into areas traditionally dominated by women, secondary and primary education, nursing and many service industries, you see that it's men who are behind the power curve in terms of pay.

The white collar world might need to take a look at their blue collar underlings to fully understand the concept. If you take two apprentice electricians, one with 4 years on the job, one with five they are by and large doing exactly the same job. However, the one with four years will be making less money. Wouldn't that be equal work for unequal pay? We condone it in the blue collar end of the pay spectrum, but are annoyed by it in the white collar world.

Get past the hype, emotion, and rationalizations, and look at it from a cold, hard, business perspective, and you see it's not punishment for having or raising kids that put the glass ceiling there. The truth is that ceiling is pretty much there from choices anymore, and it's something people need to accept.

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Blogger LargeBill said...

Suzy is right. All people make choices in life. Some make choices that lead to being very successful financially but fail in the personal life. Some sacrifice financial success for a more satisfying personal life.

Then you get idiots (okay liberals) who insist that both groups get the same results.

7:51 PM  

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