Women at Work

In the July 11th &18th edition of The New Yorker, Ken Auletta wrote a profile of Facebook’s female C.O.O., Sheryl Sandberg. The piece was a rather typical woman-in-the-headlines profile, highlighting her career path and using some strongly worded quotations to exemplify her view on women in the workplace (she describes her ideal world as one in which “a world where half of homes are run by men, especially raising children, and half our institutions are run by women, especially armies.”)

She exemplifies mainstream feminism. She was educated at top schools, worked her way up on the corporate ladder, got to the top of one company (Google) and then moved to the top of another (Facebook). The article also is an excellent feminist piece. The article spans 9 pages online, only 2 of which talk about balancing work/home life, challenges of being a female executive, and sexist encounters she’s had to deal with. The rest of the 7 pages talk about her business strategy, her career and company goals, and her work ethic. It’s a truly inspiring piece, and I encourage you all to read it.

Unfortunately, some people didn’t like the article. This person wrote in complaining that while Sheryl is blessed to be able to afford full time child care (which, by the way, she tries not to rely on too much. She and her husband have a deal that at least one, if not both, parent will be home every night to have dinner with the kids) not every family is able to do so, and that results in women being forced to stay home with the children. The author of the letter to the editor blamed California for it’s lack of providing state-funded child care facilities.

Apparently, she was referring to the proposal by Arnold Schwarzenegger to cut $1.2 billion of state funding for childcare facilities. The proposal caused so much uproar that the actual cuts ended up being only $256 million.

Certainly, the state cutting $256 million in any sort of funding is going to cause hardship to the citizens. But this is not a feminist argument. The author of the letter claims that there are “systematic probems that inhibit women’s ability to achieve leadership positions equal to those of men”, and cites the California budget cuts as one such problem.

The budget cuts are not systematic, anti-feminist problems. The budget cuts do not automatically mean that women can not achieve positions equal to those of men. They may mean, however, that families will have to reevaluate the cost of child care, and if it financially responsible for both parents to work. Many families will come to a decision that the cost of childcare is more than what a second income would provide, and therefore only one parent should work.

This DOES NOT mean that women will or should be the ones leaving their jobs. It does not mean that men will or should do that either. It means that families will have to evaluate who is going to stay home, and who is going to work. This should be a conversation that does not start with the assumtion that the women will stay home.

This is exactly what Sandberg was saying in her quote above. Half the men will be taking care of children, and have the women will be working and running armies. Feminism does not mean all women and all men work at all jobs. It simply, in it’s most basic sense, means that women and men are equal and should be treated as such. And that’s achievable by every person in every socioeconomic class in every state.

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