Saturday, July 14, 2012

Free Not to Choose

A month or so ago Anne-Marie Slaughter set the thinking world ablaze by asserting that she could not have it all, that she had to choose. My posts here and here

She had to choose between her responsibility to her job as a high ranking State Department official and her responsibility to her children.

She chose her children.

Many feminists were enraged. For decades feminists have been telling young women that they can postpone marriage and childrearing, develop their careers, and then, with the help of a supportive husband, bring up their children and advance their careers at the same time.

For want of a better expression, it’s been called: having it all.

It was, and still is a lie, but who’s watching.

Strangely, in an ideology that has made the phrase “free choice” a mantra that you could wave about to solve all problems, the notion that a woman might have to make a free choice between career and motherhood strikes feminists as an ultimate indignity.

As I mentioned previously, Slaughter threw her fellow feminists a bone by suggesting that women in the future might find the means to have it all.

Technology, she opined, would allow women, and perhaps even men, to work from home. Then, no one would have to choose between family and career.

In an alternative universe Slaughter was saying, women would not have to choose.

In my post I explained that even if women, or men, work from home, their absence from the office will surely work to their detriment.

You can do a job from home, but your absence from the office will surely undermine your career advancement.

Yesterday, an article in the Wall Street Journal reported on a study that proves my point.

Summarizing the results of the study, the Journal says: 

Workers who are seen at their desks during regular work hours are considered “responsible” and “dependable,” they wrote: “Just being seen at work, without any information about what you’re actually doing, leads people to think more highly of you.”

Work longer hours — early, late, or on weekends — and “rather than just being considered dependable, you can get upgraded to ‘committed’ and ‘dedicated,’” according to the article, which referenced a paper Elsbach and Cable published in the academic journal Human Relations. 

Bosses, and peers, often don’t realize they’re forming views of workers’ competence based on whether they’re at their desk, Cable said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

“Without us knowing it, we are creating these assumptions about people based on physical presence,” he said. This isn’t just a perception. Bosses’ vague feelings that a worker does a better job can be seen on employee evaluations, especially when they’re encouraged to make subjective calls in performance reviews.

That leads to pay, promotion, and career-trajectory decisions. Cable estimates that more than 60% of companies are still using “1950s-style” evaluations that prioritize such subjective write-ups over hard data on sales wins, customer satisfaction, or other measures of the employee’s business performance.

Naturally, the authors believe that reality discriminates against mothers who work from home. Thus, they feel compelled to offer various remedies.

Hope and ideology die hard.

The truth is, women who want to have careers and to be good mothers might very well be faced with a choice. Hopefully, it is a free choice. But, just as hopefully, feminists will stop telling young women that they are going to create an alternative universe where they no longer have to choose.

1 comment:

Dennis said...

One wonders where all these people were who can always find discrimination agains't women were when men had, and still do, have limited choices. Is there a working male alive who doesn't realize that not being visible, especially later in the work day, will harm their chances and growth in almost any organization?
Where were these people when many of us who did not come from families with the means to send them to college wound up being drafted, enlisting or finding some place to hide? I chose to enlist and get a job I enjoyed instead of being drafted into the Army and doing something I did not have a choice in.
When most of us got married we knew that many of our hopes and dreams were going to be limited by that choice, but we understood we made that choice? Isn't that what is meant by making a choice. I never sew, read or heard of anyone, especially in academe, stating that we men were being discriminated agains't.
When my family need more money to do well I chose to work as a bar stocker at an Officer's Club. I don't think I complained and whined about lifting kegs of beer, washing glasses and the other things that were part of the job and surely no one was around pointing out discrimination. I also worked as a bartender, driving cars for a rental company as well as my military job.
I am no different than a lot of men who had to make choices that were very limited, but did it for the greater good. Choice is just that a choice one makes knowing there are positives and negatives to that choice. It is freedom of choice not freedom from choice.
Sometimes I get so tired of woman whine that I wonder what would happen to these poorly equipped individuals if things really got tough. One wants to scream, "Grow Up Princess!!!"