Friday, February 22, 2013


This is Friday, so naturally I had an essay all ready to post. It’s a brief bit, complete with pictures, about all the furniture and things my husband has made. You’ll enjoy it, but you’ll have to wait.  A featured article in this morning’s N.Y. Times  really piqued my interest and I had to hazard my own opinion on the subject: The Glass Ceiling.

Here are the lead paragraphs:
Before Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, started to write “Lean In,” her book-slash-manifesto on women in the workplace, she reread Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique.” Like the homemaker turned activist who helped start a revolution 50 years ago, Ms. Sandberg wanted to do far more than sell books.

Ms. Sandberg, whose ideas about working women have prompted both enthusiasm and criticism, is attempting nothing less than a Friedan-like feat: a national discussion of a gender-problem-that-has-no-name, this time in the workplace, and a movement to address it.

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I didn’t read the entire article and I’ve never read The Feminine Mystique. Just the topic alone can set me thinking, without need to refer to what others may have thought. I’ve got news for Ms. Sandberg in her quest to spur a women’s movement: all she’ll really be doing is selling books. As for the “gender-problem-that-has-no-name”, if it is still a problem of the proportions imagined, which I sincerely doubt, it will now be with us for nigh on to forever.  Why do I consider myself qualified to comment on this? As the saying goes: “been there, done that, have the business cards to prove it.” 

In the late 60’s I became the first woman officer of the bank at which I headed the computer department. This was all back in the day when a CPU, with less capacity than my cell phone, was the size of my refrigerator.  At that time the banks gave great benefits, but the salaries were relatively low.  Because it was the new field of data processing I was able to command a higher salary than some of my male banker counterparts. I was in the right place at the right time.

Also because it was data processing I got relatively little grief from males in my own bank because they knew relatively little about what was going on. Data processing was a male-dominated field because there were more males in the workplace, but because it was new to everyone, anyone, male or female, was respected if they seemed like they knew what they were doing.

In the fifty years since the publication of The Feminine Mystique, men have come a long way – and so have women.  The men are much more welcoming to women in the workplace. If the gal knows her job, most men are now more than happy to accept the fact. It would seem like the mothers of the late twentieth century have raised them that way. A few misogynistic men will always be around, along with a few misandristic women, and they will have to be dealt with when the need arises. Case closed. 

Many of the gals who’d been with the bank for years were a bit miffed, shall we say, when I was chosen for the computer department: why her?  It sounds mean of me to say this, but they didn’t have the mindset I had for the job. All the bank’s employees were tested before the bank converted to computerized accounting in the early 60’s – I was originally a clerk in the Loan Department – and I came out on top with the aptitude for the data processing field.  When I was made an officer of the bank I had a lot of the female employees asking me how I did it. I didn’t set out to do it: I was just good at my job, and in the right place in the bank’s newest department to be made an officer when they needed one there.

Over these years I’ve come to believe that while many women doing the same job as men do get paid less – that’s a sticky area addressed only when there are exact job descriptions and pay levels in force – many women think they are as good as any man doing their job, but many times they aren’t.  I believe that unless the higher-ups have their head in the sand, the latest crop of executives recognize the abilities of their workers and pay and promote accordingly. Unless they are totally oblivious to the bottom line – profits – they’ll want the best performing people.

As more women realize their potential, decide on what they want to do, and point themselves in the right direction, their numbers are increasing in the upper echelons of business, politics and medicine. I’ve also come to know that the vast majority of women don’t want to reach any heights in any field.  We females aren’t usually programmed that way, and all women aren’t created equal. It’s wonderful that today most women can pretty much lead the life they’d like.

I don’t feel I’m wasting my life because I prefer to be CFO at home – because of my banking experience I do keep the books. I worked to live, not lived to work! When our financial outlook improved, our retirement funds were growing nicely, and we could afford to live on my husband’s income, both of us were delighted for me to retire from the bank. Heck, six years later both of us were retired and we’ve been quite pleased to be unemployed for the last twenty-five years.

I’m sure Ms. Sandberg will be enjoying her “fifteen minutes of fame”, but I don’t thinkshe or her book will have the same effect as that of Betty Freidan, a woman in the right place at the right time with a message we all needed to hear.  
On March 3 last year I posted Women Have a History . March is Women’s History Month, after all.  You might want to read that essay – it was a pretty good one if I do say so myself. 
Today is also the birthday of George Washington, Edward Gorey, and Edna St.Vincent Millay.  That’s a diverse group indeed.  Happy Birthday lady and gentlemen.

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