The Day After International Women’s Day (they only Get One Out of 365)

Moments of clarity have this thing about popping up when least expected. When they do appear, though, they have the knack of stopping time and causing you to revisit all of that which recently happened. One such moment happened recently and has some bearing here on the day after International Women’s day.

A Ph.D. student invited me to participate on a panel she was hosting on the general topic of feminism. “Why ask me?” was the obvious question, given—in addition to the obvious fact that I’m not female—my almost complete lack of formal education in that area. It came down to a few simple facts. First, I was available and second, other than me the panel was entirely female—as it should be. I was the token male.

The focus group played out more or less as you’d expect. A series of questions was posed and, one by one, we offered a response. I more or less represented the Canadian perspective inasmuch as I could. Besides me, the other respondents were from France, China (2) and Iran; three Ph.D. candidates, one MBA candidate and me. When my time first came I offered an apology, acknowledging the self-evident fact that my contribution counted for very little. This was not to inform the others—that was completely unnecessary; they were more than capable of judging my (lack of) worthiness. It was rather just to acknowledge that I, too, was aware of my lack of chops and that it would be perfectly alright to vigorously challenge and refute anything I had to say; no need to spare my fragile feelings.

Why, exactly did I do that?

Ah—the moment of clarity. It happened right about the time that I sat down with the group. It was in my “spot” (I coordinate the activities of the Teaching and Learning Commons at the Faculty of Education at Memorial U) since it was an obvious choice for the event and, so, I worked at my desk until I saw the second-last member arrive. They all turned to me, the only male, and I really needed to neutralize that not-so-simple fact. I needed to make sure that everyone else in the group was comfortable with the knowledge that I knew what a complete buffoon I might just be and that it would be okay to just let me have it of the situation arose.

Why? Because males seem to enjoy a privileged place even in Canada, a place often judged by the rest of the world as being somewhat egalitarian in most respects. It hit me: What a crock.

I responded as best I could to the questions that were posed. Rather than talk about feminism I stated outright hat I was a bit more comfortable responding from the position of representing what I did know about the issue of gender equity and decided to leave the distinction undefined. Interestingly enough—and not-to-surprisingly given the simple fact that Canada is SUPPOSED to be founded on the triad of our common English, French and Aboriginal origins (hmmm—now there’s a topic for a future post) I found much in common with the respondent from France and, rather than go into detail I often found myself just saying, “In Canada it tends to be a lot like what Louise just described.” … things like universal suffrage, federal and provincial offices dedicated to womens’ issues and so on.

That only got me so far, though, and at the end I felt compelled to share a bit of my moment. I said, “Here I am—one male surrounded by a group of intelligent and well-educated women. I’ve been careful not to say anything stupid (they all smiled) since, if I had, I would have been immediately…corrected (they laughed a bit).

I continued, “suppose, though, that the gender roles had been reversed and that, instead, there had been just one female. I wonder how things would have been different. I bet that at least one participant would have found it quite acceptable to make some pandering, sexist comment ad that the speaker would have expected grunts of assent from all gathered around, regardless of what that meant for the one female in attendance.”

I let it stand right there for a while and, for a little while, there was nothing said. Everyone just looked at me. The conversation resumed and the focus group eventually ended. My own thoughts continued though.

Canada, being a more-or-less Nordic country that supposedly embraces the idea that we are “of the land” and not masters of it, is often judged as a place where fair mindedness and egalitarianism of all kinds is something that is highly valued. Perhaps that is so but increasingly it’s obvious to me that so much is just plain not right.

Sure, women have the vote here and we have fairly powerful government ministries that represent the “status of women” but, when viewed through a clearer lens so much of it all seems like window dressing; coverings that conceal some inconvenient facts. How about positions of real power and influence—try some of this:

  • The House of assembly (the legislative/executive assembly of NL’s Provincial Government) has 48 elected members. Six of them are women.
  • C-NLOPB, which helps ensure that the offshore petroleum industry complies with the Federal/Provincial legislative framework, consists of 4 males and 2 females.
  • NOIA, Canada’s largest offshore petroleum association has 9 members on its governing board. One of them is a woman.
  • NATI represents the province’s advanced tech sector. Its governing board has 9 members. Two of them are women.
  • Even school boards—the one place where you might expect a bit of gender equity. The province currently has only two districts, an English board and a French board. The NLESD, the English district, is by far the larger of the two. Its board of trustees consists of 14 members, none of which were chosen democratically. Two of them are women.

But there’s more. The university at which I work has, besides the various traditional academic units numerous professional schools. Try this:

  • Engineering and Business are based on a co-op program that alternates academic terms with work terms (internships). These work terms are paid positions.
  • Social Work, Nursing, Pharmacy and Education also include integrated internships. These are all unpaid positions.

Notice anything odd? Engineering and Business are male dominated and the ones noted in the second bullet are overwhelmingly female. Not enough to guarantee a causal relationship, acknowledged, but if ever there was a smoking gun, that’s it.

Just last month the provincial government announced a committee charged with redrawing the electoral district boundaries. The committee consists of 5 members, chaired by a judge appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Two members were nominated by the governing PC’s and one each was nominated by each of the other two political parties. All five are males. When challenged on this those responsible for the nominations opted for the belligerent (as opposed to rational and truthful) response, “we feel confident that the tasks associated with this panel could be performed equally well by men as by women” a response that has all of the intelligence of “na na na poo poo.” This comment, aside from being more or less devoid of any sense of credibility since it was made by a collection of males, smacks of the same sense of clueless male dominated paternity one sees in the likes of the well-intentioned but still off-base movements such as “Be good to your woman” (no this is not The Onion—that really does exist. YOUR woman??? Really??? Yup.).

There’s such a long road ahead. Sadly, many are unaware of just what it took to even get this far. That which is taken for granted tends to be lost when the pinch comes.

Let’s look for just a minute at politics. My province’s record of women in elected positions is nothing short of shameful, a fact that begs the question, “why is that the case?” Offhand there seem to be two answers. First, there’s the indisputable existence of an active Old Boys’ network. Witness the male-dominated boards, paid work-terms in male-dominated sectors and such. But that by itself does not adequately explain all of it.

Perhaps it’s got something to do with vulnerability. Researcher Brene Brown has written extensively on the topic after almost two decades of study in the field one thing that’s become quite clear is that an incredible amount of courage is required to overcome the sense of vulnerability that comes from everyday life. It’s so much more the case, though, for those who appear as public figures. For a woman, off-base suggestions that her weight, level of physical prowess, or attire, for example may be  in any way sub-par are going to hit straight where it hurts most.

So what? So this: people who offer themselves for public office are subject to the most excruciatingly intimate degree of public scrutiny possible. Nothing—nothing at all—is off the table. One would think that public scrutiny should be limited to performance in the portion of the public arena that is work related. Performance in the area of drafting legislation, debating public policy, contributing to committee work and responding to emerging needs of constituents, sure—those are fair game. But it never ends there, does it? Everything gets mentioned, reported and commented on: family life, previous work and education and, yes, all those issues related to body image; the things that hurt the most.

One most then ask, “why would any level headed woman offer herself for public office given the widely-accepted toxic climate they must endure from the general public?” Why indeed.

As far as women are concerned such a long road lies ahead, does it not?


About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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27 Responses to The Day After International Women’s Day (they only Get One Out of 365)

  1. Marie says:

    Brené Brown is a powerhouse advocate for vulnerability and authenticity; her work on shame is invaluable. In that vein, there is a subtext of shame in the language of your apologies for your contribution to a dialogue of feminism. I think you had a place of value in that room. Let me say this, I want my son and husband at that same table; I want them to partner with and advocate for feminism. What a privilege for you to sit among those women and have an opportunity to learn from their perspective, to carry that knowledge into your community, classrooms, and home.

    • Thank you. At the time I was thinking that only slightly earlier there had been a conference on women’s issues held in Saudi Arabia but with not a single woman in attendance. Yes, I know that cultures differ widely and that those of us not from within it should think carefully before passing judgement but that was just too much. I could envision the Saudi men earnestly debating the various issues and probably quite convinced that they did understand them and, furthermore, just as equally convinced that they were doing good, progressive work. And perhaps they were–everything is relative and a journey has to start somewhere, assuming that the goal was to be a bit progressive.
      Yes, I did try hard to lend some meaningful input but I have to admit I would have been much more comfortable as an observer, given the opportunity to just sit and listen quietly, endeavoring to understand things somewhat outside by zone of comfort. All that said, i am glad I got to participate. I did manage to walk away somewhat the wiser.

  2. Pingback: To speak out, or not to speak out … | Clouds moving in

  3. I found this a deep and thoughtful post. The simple acknowledgement that you accepted you may get something wrong would have been enough to me for you to merit your place at that table.

    I think it is valid to have a man at the table in a discussion about feminism. Preferably one who doesn’t know all the answers. Having said that, it might also be interesting to have a know-it-all up there too. So long as someone put him in his place.p

    And, really interesting additional info. Depressing of course, but what’s new? The ‘Your Woman’ link made me gag!

    A good read Maurice. I linked to it as an example of such.

    • Thank you. I should also mention it was somewhat daunting, I was expected to contribute and felt completely out of my league. There’s a very active gender studies department here at the University and quite a few very capable grad students who would have provided more meaningful input. I was the token male, though, and did my best all things considered. As for that link–wow–I heard it on a local AM radio station. The station plays mostly country (I am not a fan of it) but also does a decent job on local news and that’s why I had it on. When i first heard mention of that campaign I just figured they were just kidding around it all sounded so hokey. No joke, though. To me it’s off base, just substituting paternalistic condescension for cruelty.

  4. Mary says:

    Thanks for posting – enjoyed reading about your perspective. Glad to hear you were invited to participate on the panel and what’s more – accepted – no shame at all in that! I work with teens who this year were very inspired by Emma Watson’s speech at the UN about men and women working together – men playing an active role in ensuring that each individual is treated fairly. They were inspired by her speech and the #HeForShe campaign etc… They wrote about it for our school’s newspaper.
    I think the more people who speak or write about equality and dignity – such as you have done here – the better.
    As a graduate of Dalhousie ( MUN too:). I have been dismayed this year by the whole Dalhousie Dentistry miscarriage of justice. It seems terribly wrong that the one young man who tried to actually speak up against the sexism and stop it is the only young man whose name was dragged through the media; the only young man not yet allowed back in the clinic.
    Despite so many panels, hashtags and acronyms , there does seem to be ‘an old boy’s’ power at work here – Scapegoating some; protecting others.
    What a message they are sending to our young ladies and men; what a lesson this university is teaching: – shut up and we will protect you = or at least those of you we feel connected to or those of you with privilege.
    I used to feel proud to say I was a graduate of venerable Dalhousie. Now, I feel – yes shame.
    So glad to hear though that you and MUN are doing this work.

    • I firmly suspect that what came to light in Dal was not an isolated incident. It was, rather, probably a vestige of something that’s been happening for a long time. Perhaps there once was a time when culture would tolerate such behavior but we’ve managed to move way beyond that point. On a positive note I, too, have been following the fallout from Dal and have noticed that a proper version of restorative justice is being practiced; one that has teeth and claws as well as warmth. I have a good feeling about it and expect some measure of true justice to come about, however that will time. I will go on to say that I can see a time–maybe a decade from now — that people will look back at the response to that crisis saying it was a positive illustrative example of justice.

      • mary says:

        I think you are so right about this not being an isolated incident at all. I really do hope that ultimately you are right and true change and justice does emerge – just at this juncture – it seems to be very unjust to the young man who actually tried to reveal and stop the behavior. I hope the university takes measures to restore his reputation. It seems profoundly unfair that he and his young family are bullied/ hung out to dry like this – made to wear Dal’s shame.
        Just want to say again how much I enjoyed your post which reveals a great deal of thoughtfulness and willingness to put yourself in a vulnerable position.

  5. tw says:

    Another great and thought-provoking post Maurice and so much here I can identify with. Where to start? As a woman I’ve always thought of feminism in its purest form as a simple request for equality. Equality means a lot to me, not just the whole gender thing but also race, ability, belief, sexual orientation – we are all human and made of the same stuff so I do think it’s about time we got over ourselves and accepted one another just the way we are. Sadly I think this is still a distant utopia and I’ll be lucky to see it in my lifetime.
    The situations you describe in this post are all too real. I’ve been the only woman in a very male dominated environment for many years. I’ve experienced the pandering sexist comments, the innuendo and every now and then the ‘there, there dear, don’t worry your head over it’ remarks. Challenging this kind of behaviour all the time is draining and demoralising so the only choice, short of leaving my profession (which many women do and many new female graduates decide to avoid altogether) is to develop a thick skin. A thick skin doesn’t make up for the fact that I earn, on average, 20% less than my male counterparts even though I’m better qualified and have equal if not better experience. The ‘old boys network’ is still going strong in the UK and gender equality continues to be more talk than action. I was first interviewed about this in 1998, in real terms very little has changed in the last 17 years.
    What really concerns me is the impact this is having on future generations. We are already seeing high school girls stepping away from STEM subjects and in my field – information technology – women are leaving the profession and the number of female graduates is declining so there are no ‘new’ women to replace them with.
    I don’t know what the answer is. As a woman I don’t expect to be treated differently, I do expect to be treated on an equal footing with my male counterparts but I think we still have much to do to overcome our hunter-gatherer past.

    • Well said. I think that the first response–normal affirmative action–can only ever be a partial solution at best. I’ve seen examples of how it can work to a point by guaranteeing a particular fraction of seats in an occupation or education program to females. All that does, though, is open the door. The women who participate need to be the brave, committed ones who are prepared to withstand the backlash. That only gets you so far because most women will look at the situation and judge it not worth the pain on balance.To truly make a difference, as I see it, you need to get at the roots of the question, “why are females not here?” and address the many issues that come up. Rather than pushing the women through, instead remove the barriers that occur. Easier said than done, of course.
      I wonder, these days, if we are making progress at all, given what you have mentioned about the tailing off of participation in STEM.

      • Michelle H says:

        Perhaps an equally important question to “why are females not here?” would be, in other fields as well as in the home, “why are males not here?” I ask myself this question more often these days, noticing how journalism and the humanities fields are filling up with women while the average salaries in these fields takes a nose-dive to the bottom. What is happening? Do the wages drop first, and we see men evacuate to better pay? Or do women enter, and then the growth of talent in the field causes a wage drop?

        You’ve provoked a lot of interesting comments, Maurice. I haven’t been able to stop chewing over your post since I read it earlier today. I suspect that what underpins a lot of the tension in the workplace comes back to underlying beliefs of masculinity and femininity, and these perceptions are maintained with a cultivated sense of shame. I agree that Brene Brown’s work is highly relevant to this conversation; for me, in personal experience, only those people who are comfortable enough with themselves and can be honest with themselves seem capable of acknowledging that the world is not perfect. This is, I think, the first important step in really being able to see other people as unique individuals… not as a stereotype of what we think other people are or should be. It’s sad that many of us experience victimization because others can’t get their heads out of their butts, but I also think it must be far more uncomfortable seeing the world with a limited view (such as the interior of one’s posterior).

        • If I had to guess I would say you pretty much nailed it when you indicated that the addition of women to the pool of candidates creates an over-supply of talent. I would go one step further, though, and say that women seem more likely to acquiesce to lower rates of pay. I do not know why that is true. I could speculate things like: women get bullied; are more likely to self-sacrifice for the perceived good of the company; are more used to compromising as opposed to resisting the downward trend, and so on. All of those are speculative, though and I have no data or rationale for any of them, just a gut feeling–something that really counts for little.
          I also have to say that your closing comment made me laugh out loud. We were on the way home from school/work and my eldest son was driving. All three sons gave me a funny look. I really like the way you put it 🙂

  6. Maurice very interesting post, I just attended an art exhibition in my local town. I had a my art in the exhibition and it was a celebration of International Women’s Day. Four young ladies were given scholarships to assist them in their career studies. There was a speech by a local business woman that astounded me. She ran through some statistics on how we fair across the fields of art and literacy and we still have so far to go for recognition, awards and wage earnings. So yes it is a long journey and I thank you for such a well written piece.

    • The figures around here are not that great either. I find it astounding that there’s still a wage gap based on gender for similar work. Even more astounding is that people are not angry over it–there seems to be an air of acceptance about it; something I find very hard to fathom.

  7. elkement says:

    Great, thoughtful post, Maurice!! I am pretty sure you were the perfect person to be on that panel! You have given all this much more thought than I ever did!!

    What I find weird and worrying that young girls still rather pick nursing or health care or marketing etc. over engineering and science. A university manager (in charge of IT degree programs) told me the university considered to sell computer science and tech as more “human-centered” as girls tate, in their entry interviews, that they “just want to help people but not work only with machines all day”. I figured this was just a stereotype!

    I am still waiting for the study that really explains girls’ rationales – I personally don’t get it … I have often been interviewed as “woman in tech” and asked why there are so few women in science. I could just respond I am the worst person to ask as it was a most natural choice for me…. and this has been a very long time ago. Didn’t anything change?

    • In my physcs classes, overall, there were about the same number of girls as boys and I detected no particular “male advantage” either in the lab or the classroom. The fact is, the girls out-performed the boys because they took the whole thing more seriously. Still–once done with high school significantly fewer girls went on to study it at the post-secondary level. I firmly believe it’s more cultural, that is, the young people still follow age-old career options instead of truly looking for what best fits them. That’s truly a shame at all levels–girls miss out on careers that would have been a better fit to their interests and society loses out on some remarkable practitioners.

      • elkement says:

        I think in Austria it starts earlier: We have something like “technical highschools” and “business highschools” (9 years instead of 8, focus on employable skills, less general ed. compared to grammar school). These schools use(d) to prepare for a career as an engineer or an accountant. (There were no bachelor’s degrees until recently). Guess which schools girls rather pick. I have once talked to a physics / CS teacher in one of Austria’s largest technical high schools. Students can pick “programs” there, more like in college. And the only program that was picked by some girls was interior design, any other science / tech program was basically male-only.

        We also have a strong tradition of vocational training / secondary education as an alternative to to high school / grammar school – here pupils attend trade school while working as paid apprentices. Still today girl’s favorite pick is “hairdresser” while most boys want to become car mechanics.
        Pupils, or rather their parents, have to pick a type of education when children are only 10 years old (in case of vocational school) or 14 years (when you move to a technical high school). I guess this is way too early.

        I attended a standard “general education” highschool which offered a track with more science classes. In this program there we were less than 20% girls.

        Generally, the Austrian / German / European (?) schools’ programs are based on early specialization though this is about to change after our traditional 5-years degrees have been split into bachelors and masters. But when I studied physics, there were no non-STEM classes – it was just physics, math (the same very rigorous, proof-based based the math majors had), and a bit of chemistry, electronics, and programming right from the start. Students who came from a “business highschool” for example (who were e.g. not familiar with vector algebra) had to work extremely hard to catch up.

        So I figured this trap of too early specialization in “girl-specific subjects” could be avoided in the US and CA, as your system – as I understood it – is more based on a well-rounded college education where students have more time to figure out what they finally want to specialize in?

        • I just had to go and edit my WP settings, increasing the thread depth, so I could reply to you and Michelle 🙂 That’s a very interesting difference in schooling you have pointed out. The system here is significantly different in most respects–some thing that leaves us each with a few advantages and disadvantages. In Canada students typically attend school from age 5-kindergarten to grade 12. Typically people see k-3 as primary, 4-6 as elementary, 7-9 as intermediate and 10-12 as high school. Each grade grouping is typified by different age-related approaches and each grade grouping has different key-stage curriculum outcomes that must be achieved–but at various levels; it is acknowledged that not all students will perform equally.
          Significant changes in programs only occur after high school. Until then all students work together. Of course significant use is made of special needs teachers and student assistants to work with students with individual specialized needs.
          In high school some things are a given–everyone must study either English or french language arts all through and must take at least 2 math courses (most take 3 or 4) as well as at least 2 science courses–again most take 4 or 5. At least 2 social studies courses must also be taken. University entrance requirements, as you expect, are much stiffer; these are just minima that enable high school graduation, not college entrance. Beyond that there are significant opportunities for students to vary the program.
          We still get the same outcome, though, that you are seeing. Second-language courses are very female, physics is slightly male, biology slightly female and so on.
          After school, though, we see what you have mentioned–all of it. Though strides have been made STEM is still quite male-dominated. I am still of the mind that rather than try and convince women to take the programs we need to look deeper at the schools and industries and remove the barriers such as the misogynist tendencies from the dinosaurs who still exist in schools and industry.

          • elkement says:

            Interesting – so “grade 12” means 12 years old? Oh my, I had always figured grade 12 = 18 years old :-), so that the first 4 “grades” would be equivalent to our 4 years of elementary school, plus those 8 more years of high school or grammar school we have here.

            So from what you say I conclude that you rather distinguish school by age, whereas our system offers different schools to children at the same age. It is subject to political debate here (a classical right versus left topic) if there should be one type of school only, at least for children less than 14 years old. So still more children of people with university degrees attend high schools (in term of our definition, you graduate with a diploma at age 18 or 19) and then university, but blue-collar workers’ children are still more likely to pursue the secondary vocational education (final exam with 18, and you can go on to work towards a vocational title whose literal translation is “master”, but this totally different from our high school and university, though there are a few experimental programs combining vocational ed. and high school)

            But I believe our system is finally coverging against international standards: To make things even more complicated we had a slightly different type of university (“University of Applied Sciences”), that offered 4-years and more hands-on degrees, especially degrees combining tech and economics, you can graduate e.g. in Process Engineering and Logistics or the like. Some considered them second-class, some called them more targeted to industry’s need, and in contrast to classical universities they allowed people without high school diplomas but their graduates could not embark on PhD programs and these schools did not do research, but focused on teaching. Now, following the “Bologna process”, those programs had been extended to the usual 3-years bachelors and 2-years masters, and I feel all kinds of universities become more similar to each other.
            Those applied universities were located often in rural areas on purpose, and finally allowed also workers’ and farmers’ children to get higher education. But I think the same cannot said for the girls/boys divide. I think there are just more and more graduates, but not more jobs, so today the (female) accountant has a university degree instead of a business highschool diploma or vocational training as office clerk, whereas (male) engineers add a university degree on top of their tech high school or vocational degree as a mechanic. Otherwise things have remained the same.

            • I have led you a bit astray in my wording–your initial thoughts were correct. Kindergarten starts with the school year (September) and is for those who will be aged 5 before the end of the calendar year. Grade 1 then proceeds from there and so on. Most students will be at or near their eighteenth year when they finish grade 12 therefore. School is mandatory only until grade 10 but most do continue.
              Based on the rest of what you’ve said it does appear that there’s been a major convergence in our schooling. Here in NL there is only one large university–Memorial University which has around 17,000 full time students spread across one large and two smaller campuses. We also have the College of the North Atlantic which is more like the vocational system you described. It has 17 campuses in NL plus one in Qatar and has an enrollment of around 20,000 students. The two-tiered system is prevalent across most of Canada. Memorial has a trimester system but most students attend two, taking the summer off. The professional schools use all three, often alternating academic terms with work terms. Because of that the bachelor programs in the academic units take 4 years although they can be compressed to three if students attend all three trimesters. In the professional schools you just have to go with the flow–completion typically takes 5 years, but leaves the graduate with significant work-related experience .
              Like yours, the College system has been dispersed through the province. The students from the vocational program will come out with an apprentice rating and will need to gather significant experience under the guidance of a journeyman (nope man not person, lol) at which time they’ll write block exams to see if they qualify for journeyman and, perhaps, eventually master.
              By not making children chose programs until high school there are advantages and disadvantages. Students are encouraged to look at all options and to focus on school as it affects them beyond work–personal life and civic duty are also very important. There’s often a mis-match for students, though, since we are not all the same. Many find themselves in a world they do not feel they belong in; after all we’re all different in our own way and the school here sometimes makes it hard to be different,. Of course there are many academics who would debate that!

  8. Kathy C says:

    Maurice, I am a huge fan of Brene Brown. You may think this is just semantics, but I see her work as being about the courage to BE vulnerable rather than about the courage to OVERCOME vulnerability. Something I continue to work on. 🙂

    • Absolutely agreed! The choice of words on my behalf is definitely not correct. Being is the right one. Additionally her research has uncovered significant differences between men and women. She says that fro women it tends to be most acute around body image and for men the issue come down to showing weakness. Men are very much averse to ever doing that and, believe me, I know it. Interestingly enough she goes on to point out that women don’t seem to want to be around men when they do show weakness. For me, the most meaningful thing she has said is this: Go to this link and listen at exactly 24:45 🙂

  9. For someone who claims to be on the outside, you have done a wonderful job dissecting the issue. I have no global solution. As an individual, I have always strived to live the Golden Rule of reciprocity … do unto others. If more of us followed that one, we’d all be better off. D

    • Thanks Dave. That reminds me of the old story of the Rabbi Hillel (around 110BCE-10AD …ish). A person once said to him he would become a believer if Hillel could recite the entire Torah standing on one foot. He complied, stood on one foot and said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. The rest of the Torah is commentary, read it yourself.”

  10. Tiny says:

    I did read your post a few days ago but didn’t have the time to comment…I really like the fact that you agreed to be the “token male” in the panel. You have lots of knowledge on the subject as evidenced by this post, and first and foremost, your heart is in the right place. I’ve been the “token woman” many times in my career in male dominated work environments, panels etc. I’ve even been told by a male colleague that I got a coveted job just because I was a woman…it’s still far from “equal” in the work place, politics, etc. I’m still hoping there will be progress…

  11. Great, thoughtful post, Maurice.

    I’ve long been my husband’s business partner in a male-dominated business–construction (residential and commercial building and renovation).

    He’s the field guy, and I’m the office person (handling accounting/financing; insurance and regulatory compliance; permitting, legal and tax issues), but I also know quite a bit about doing the field work. I passed the contractor’s licensing examination in Minnesota, at a time when many of the men who had been working as contractors for years, failed the exam. I know the business inside and out, and could be a contractor on my own,

    but I would never want to be. I would be unwilling to put up with all the sexist attitudes from which I’m currently protected, because Ken plays the front guy. It’s hard enough to be a woman in the legal/medical/education professions, but when you get into the blue-collar world, it’s downright intimidating and physically scary.

    Still–I have to say that I feel incredibly privileged to have my place in the world. I’m white, middle-class, pleasant-looking and therefore I have so many opportunities that are closed to people born into poverty, people of color, people with disfigurements and visible disabilities. As difficult as sexism is to deal with, I still think it’s easier than these other prejudices (which, in many people’s mind, conveniently don’t exist any longer–but living in a multi-cultural state, and now that I’m volunteering with social service organizations, I see cronyism, favoritism and prejudice everywhere!)

    Still, I have hope that people like you will continue to point out the injustices. And revelation is the precursor to change.

    Well, done!

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