Saturday, 20 March 2010

Wanting what men have got, Episode One

The DomPost came up with a very odd editorial on Friday. The headline was "Ongoing dilemma of wanting it all". It linked the resignation of the first female director of Auckland Museum, Vanda Vitali,* with former (and first female) Telecom director Theresa Gattung's new book to opine:

"The decision by any woman to go for, then hold on to, a top job - in politics, business, or the public sector - still has its challenges...women, especially, still make a slew of choices and juggle responsibilities, should they wish not only to have families, but to further their careers, too."

So "wanting it all" actually means "wanting exactly what men have already got" - a career to match your talents, and a family. (Which in fact, if "family" equates to "children", neither Gattung nor Vitali had.)

And it is, of course, only women who must make choices, juggle responsibilities and generally struggle "not to shortchange their families and their bosses" - because it's taken for granted that this is never a problem for men.

It's definitely not a problem for society, either: "Such choices are, of course, the preserve only of the couples involved. If they are state servants, a benevolent employer might have a role, too."

Nobody else need concern themselves with this in the slightest. If you want kids, you sort it out - and don't expect their father's employer to do anything about it, either.

But heaven forfend that even in the state service, this role might extend to, oh, I don't know, something like paying women and men comparable rates for work of equal value. Or even for the same work. Before it was scrapped, the Pay and Employment Equity Unit unearthed instances of unequal pay for equal work in pretty much all the bits of the state service it looked at.

It may have been the law since 1972, but that doesn't mean it exists in practice. And women really need better pay, if only to afford the full cost of replacement childcare - which is, naturally (that siren call of biology again, you see) the price they must pay for wanting it all.

Except that the previous government did bring in 20 hours' free care and 14 weeks' paid parental leave for childbirth. They must have had some strange notion that women having it all - a job AND children - is in everyone's interests. The editorial writer must have missed all that, since he or she felt no embarrassment about coming to such a time-warp conclusion.

*They were thrilled to get her at the time, given her distinguished CV.

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