"A Woeful Place for a Woman Who Aspires to Lead"

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Rangoon? The Vatican? Promise Keepers HQ? Newsweek's international edition points to Europe:

For all the myths of equality that Europe tells itself, the Continent is by and large a woeful place for a woman who aspires to lead. According to a paper published by the International Labor Organization this past June, women account for 45 percent of high-level decision makers in America, including legislators, senior officials and managers across all types of businesses. In the U.K., women hold 33 percent of those jobs. In Sweden—supposedly the very model of global gender equality—they hold 29 percent….

Why is this? Simply put, Europe is killing its women with kindness—enshrined, ironically, in cushy welfare policies that were created to help them. By offering women extremely long work leaves after children, then pushing them to take the full complement via tax policies that discourage a second income, coupled with subsidies that serve to keep them at home, Europe is essentially squandering its female talent.

Whole thing, well worth reading, here.

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  1. According to a paper published by the International Labor Organization this past June, women account for 45 percent of high-level decision makers in America, including legislators, senior officials and managers across all types of businesses. In the U.K., women hold 33 percent of those jobs. In Sweden — supposedly the very model of global gender equality — they hold 29 percent….

    True enough, and yet this reminds me of those people who insist that here in America, we need to still have affirmative action based on race and gender because, you know, if minority representation in a given field is not identical to the minority’s percentage of the population, this is clearly a problem of policy.

    Fifty-one percent of Americans are women, yet fify-one percent of American lawmakers are not. Hmmm. What government programs or lack thereof shall we blame this on?

  2. Has it occurred to the writer that the women **choose** to stay with their children if they can do so?

    The ones who want to lead, can go and try. The ones without the inclination, they do no.

    Isn’t that what freedom is all about?

    Or you are not free unless you do what others expect of you?

  3. “Or you are not free unless you do what others expect of you?”

    These women are doing what was expected of women in the 1820’s.

    The only reason that makes sense is that they are being oppressed. Like the women in the 1820’s.

    Any other explanation requires that gender be something other than a social construction.

  4. This reminds me of all the articles recently arguing that Europeans (read, white) will be replaced by Arab Jihadis in fifty years because European women don’t have huge families anymore. The writers always blame feminism, even though the lowest birthrates occur in the least feminist countries, Spain and Italy. (BTW, I love Italy and Italian culture, but I wouldn’t want to live there, either.) The problem seems to me to be the alliance between aggressive labor unions and ex-aristocrats with a pre-WWI view of the family roles. Lots of Europe’s problems can be attributed to the same combination. A litte more real, day – to – day equality between men and women would have the effect of improving both the birth rate and the lack of women in managment positions.

  5. A litte more real, day – to – day equality between men and women would have the effect of improving both the birth rate and the lack of women in managment positions.

    But the problem here–and I’m playing devil’s advocate moreso than I am actually disagreeing–is the idea that the lower number of women in management positions is in fact a “problem.” As has already been pointed out, some women prefer to stay home with their kids. So long as this generalization is not made into a rule (i.e., some women prefer to stay with their kids, therefore ALL women must prefer to stay with their kids, so we’ll legally require them to do so), why exactly is this a problem?

    This whole discussion reminds me of those unrealistic feminists who blamed wicked patriarchy on the fact that women are less likely than men to be construction workers, but more likely than men to be kindergarten teachers.

    Maybe–forgive the free-market-libertarian heresy here–maybe the profit motive and getting as much money as you can before you die is NOT the main motivation of every member of the human race.

  6. maybe the profit motive and getting as much money as you can before you die is NOT the main motivation of every member of the human race.

    Insofar as libertarianism is informed by economics, that statement is not heresy, Jennifer. Economics posits that people seek to maximize utility, not profit. Insofar as a given job adds utility to an individual that cannot be made up for by the additional income of an alternative job, choosing the lower paying job is not out of line with economic theory or libertarianism.

    A litte more real, day – to – day equality between men and women would have the effect of improving both the birth rate and the lack of women in managment positions.

    The women in management positions I get, but can someone explain the link between real equality and a higher birthrate? Across European countries it may be true that birthrates are positively correlated with feminism (I don’t know for sure). But surely across countries of the world birthrates are negatively correlated with feminism. I don’t have hard numbers on that, but the Middle East, East Asia, and Africa tend to have very high birth rates and comparatively low status for the average woman.

  7. I get it. Women in Europe cannot have a successful professional career if they choose to have kids. Because raising kids requires time and commitment, and that’s damned inconvenient when a professional career also requires time and commitment. The author unintentionally demonstrates that one cannot have his cake and eat it too. But social meddlers will continue to try.

  8. Jennifer,

    You have a really good point, and this isn’t a very good response to your post, but I got the impression from the article that there were lots of barries, both formal and informal, to women moving much above office drone. The 210 amendments to the EU rules on service sector jobs is a good example of policies that adversely affect women’s earning power.

  9. I got the impression from the article that there were lots of barries, both formal and informal, to women moving much above office drone

    That may be so, but these statistics are not proof of that. Instead, I’d be interested in hearnig from women who have what it takes to get to the top, but could not do so because of these barriers.

    It is quite possible that there would be a gender imbalance even in Libertopia, because the number of women who would be happy to stay home with their kids rather than become a CEO is probably higher than the number of men who would do the same thing. Maybe the reason we have more women in such positions in America is because of a “best of a bad situation” issue–“I, a woman, would like to stay home with my kids, but I cannot afford to do so. Since I have to work anyway, I may as well make the most of it by climbing as high up the corporate ladder as I can, but I would never have done so if I could have stayed home and been a Mommy instead.”

    Apparently Europe, in some ways, gives women more choices than here, and it turns out some of those choices don’t meet the approval of all watchers. What percentage of management positions have to be filled by women in order for people to decide everything is fine?

  10. Say what you want to about Reagan vs women, but (ironically) thanks to him women entered the market in droves during his tenure. First, there was the fact that his policies encouraged job creation (aka the pursuit of profits). But more to the point here, he slashed the top income tax rate, and this had the effect of hugely reducing the tax penalty for married women who wanted to work. So they worked.

    Before I get blasted I’ll of course point out that the groundwork for women entering the workforce was laid during the enlightened leftist 70’s and 60’s. But it was only under Reagan that it made sense economically.

    The whole point of the article is that it does not make sense economically for married women to work and have kids, and thus many (but hardly all) make a choice they would not have made on a level playing field.

  11. As long as men get the same bennies (except for pregnancy leave,of course) I can see no problem with this scenario.

    Sqaundering talents? Has it ever occured to you that only in a male-centered world would raising a family be considered a squandering of talents. Making money is not the only measure of talent, progress, success, etc.

    This from a woman who has chosen not to have children

  12. Thank you smappy! I get so aggravated when people think that libertarianism is based on thinking that money is the only factor in human motivation (which joe on at least one occasion claimed). This would even be impossible because then no one would want any of the things it could buy (which can include free time and better working conditions, etc.)! The foundation of libertarianism is not money but freedom. What leftists (and some on the religious right too) don’t like is that freedom includes being free to pursue money. But it hardly requires it!

  13. I also wonder how much of the difference may be due to the fact that in America, most families need two incomes in order to achieve what is considered the standard middle-class lifestyle. How does this compare to Europe?

    Has it ever occured to you that only in a male-centered world would raising a family be considered a squandering of talents.

    I don’t want kids either, but that doen’t mean I assume anyone who does want to have them and raise them is squandering her talents. If she is FORCED to have and raise kids, that is of course a completely different matter.

    I remember when I was a kid, my mother wanted me to become a doctor. I have what it takes intellectually, but I have absolutely no desire to be a doctor, and never did. As a result, I am making less money, and have less prestige, then I would if I had “MD” after my name. But I’d be damned offended if anybody looked at my MD-less life and sniffed that I am “squandering” my talents because I did not take advantage of a certain potential which I have no desire to use.

  14. que,
    <snark>Gee, I thought the male-centered world thinks that ‘barefoot and pregnant’ is the most productive a woman can be.</snark>

  15. The Fatherland has a female chancellor, and England used to have a female prime minister. That’s leadership.

  16. Social-engineering backfires once again, as usual.
    As a man in a feminist country which freely discriminates against men, I must say:
    “Ha ha! No free lunch!”

  17. I also wonder how much of the difference may be due to the fact that in America, most families need two incomes in order to achieve what is considered the standard middle-class lifestyle. How does this compare to Europe?

    Well, with a single income, most American families can approximate middle class European living just fine.

  18. Fifty-one percent of Americans are women, yet fify-one percent of American lawmakers are not. Hmmm. What government programs or lack thereof shall we blame this on?

    The Census Bureau?

  19. Has it ever occured to you that only in a male-centered world would raising a family be considered a squandering of talents.

    Yet this argument isn’t made by patriarchal males. AFAIK, it’s made only by that brand of feminist who believes women should not only be permitted or encouraged to find careers in business, but actually required to do so.

  20. Fifty-one percent of Americans are women, yet fify-one percent of American lawmakers are not.

    On the other hand, 100% of the US Secretaries of State are women — a position 4th in the line of succession to the presidency, which has power almost equal to the entire legislative branch. So maybe it’s not just the quantity, but the position occupied?

  21. Some members of the Swedish Feminist Party were actually proposing a Gender Tax for men at some point. With this tax the government was supposed to cover expensen caused by spouse abuse & such. It’s pretty easy to guess how the Party feels about the loser sisters who actually prefer to stay home with kids and thus make us all look backward.

  22. On the other hand, 100% of the US Secretaries of State are women — a position 4th in the line of succession to the presidency, which has power almost equal to the entire legislative branch. So maybe it’s not just the quantity, but the position occupied?

    But on the OTHER other hand (this hypothetical being represented by a multi-armed Hindu god), European states have directly elected female heads of state, whereas America has not. Condi was appointed, not elected.) So Howley’s thesis that something about European policy is inherently Keeping Women Down has a couple of holes in it, I think.

    Unless you want this to get super complicated. How many female CEOs are equivalent to one directly elected female President or Prime Minister? How many female corporate vice-presidents are worth one female CEO? How many females have to be CEOs before professional worry-warts stop reading problems into the number of female CEOs?

  23. “Fifty-one percent of Americans are women, yet fify-one percent of American lawmakers are not.”

    How about we work on the other side of the equation, and eliminate some surplus females from the population? I move that we start with the Jennifers.

  24. Better yet, Barbara, let’s consider the possibility that equality doesn’t mean that the percentage of women CEOs and politicians must match the percentage of women in the population as a whole.

  25. You can make a plausible argument that Condi Rice has more power than all the heads of state of Europe combined.

    I’m tempted to say any nitwit can get elected (witness Bubba Clinton) but that you have to be reasonably qualified to get a Cabinet post, but then I remembered Robert Reich, and so…nevermind.

  26. Europe tends to have a lot more women in positions of political power; America has more female executives. Unless they’re partially government-owned, the corporate boards of most European companies are old boy’s clubs.

    Though, at the same time, women in executive positions in the U.S. seem to dominate two fields: Human Resources and Corporate Communications. There aren’t that many female CFOs, CTOs and CIOs.

    All that said, women in Europe and the U.S. have nothing to complain about compared to their Japanese counterparts; if there’s a developed country badly in need of a powerful feminist movement, it’s that one.

    (And, oddly enough, Malaysia has one of the highest percentages of women in executive positions that you’ll find anywhere in the world…)

  27. >the number of women who would be happy to
    >stay home with their kids rather than become a
    >CEO is probably higher than the number of men
    >who would do the same thing.

    Women don’t marry down, and men know it. Even if men had no preference for being CEO, men would do it anyway because it makes them more marriageable.

  28. “European states have directly elected female heads of state”

    they do?

    which ones? (curious)

    maggie was through the first-past-the-post parliament.

    no direct election in germany or finland, either.

    thanks! cheers

  29. Curious George,

    your sources must be from the 70’s. I woted for Tarja Halonen (the present Head of State of Finland as I’m sure everybody here knows) few weeks back and the system seemed pretty direct to me.

  30. but the prez picks the PM (head of gov’t). you didn’t vote for PM Matty (first name, i think – argh. brain burp) from the Centre Party.

    (yup the election was in feb – i actually did make a note of it, which is why finland was on my mind)

    so while there might be the confusion between “head of state” and “head of government” – apologies for not being clear on that. good call about Tarja.

    however, the distinction of condi having more political power than european counterparts only seems relevant to me if you consider political power.

    thanks for that pick-up about direct voting for prez there. i was thinking head of political power and sloppily substituted “head of government” in my train of thought (run by amtrak, apparently). cuz, what, if she stays head of state for many years, she’ll get to sit with Dronningen Marge of Denmark at Castro’s table at UN functions. woo ha! but the political power of condi (appointed) is generally greater than the head-of-nation’s power in the discussion of “power” as i understand it being used here.

    even then, what other european nations have direct election of 1) president and 2) prime minister? and how many are female.

    Merkel wasn’t directly elected. Iceland’s ceremonial president is directly elected, but that doesn’t really mean anything, as that post is basically devoid of power. but again, i have interpreted the “power of condi” discussion to be political, which, as i interpreted it was from the executive branch/PM’s office.

    so it’s really “vacker” that the system was pretty direct to you. i’ll assume you weren’t trying to be patronizing. inte?

  31. I went to the ILO’s website to try to find the original report/data. No luck (unless it’s “Reconciling Work and Family Responsibilities: Practical ideas from global experience” for which I’m not about to shell out $28). If anybody has found the actual report, pretty please post a link. But if you think there’s a meaningful definition of “high-level decision makers” (which would follow from a definition of high level decisions) according to which 45% of them in the US are female, you must live in a very, very different US than I do. Please tell me where I can find that US.

    [I’ve no informed opinion either way about the relative prevalence of female HLDMs in the US versus EU; I just question whether the ILO report’s conclusion constitutes any basis for an informed opinion.]

  32. To smappy:

    When you look at east Asia (Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, etc), you find that feminism is still in the stone ages (well, maybe the US’s 1960’s), yet birthrates are even lower than those of Europe. How does this fit into your theory?

    At least in Japan (where I live), the reason that so few women are having children is that as long as a Japanese remains unmarried, they get to live rent-free with their parents and squander their entire salary on fashion, travel, and screwing around. Not surprisingly, you find all sorts of 30-something women (and men) living with their parents, with no plans for the future and completely unable to take care of themselves.

    Combine this with the fact that a Japanese woman is given only menial jobs because everyone knows she will quit when she gets married, and you have no incentive whatsoever for a Japanese woman to struggle to get ahead or have children. Of course, when she gets married, she does quit, because her job is menial. Ahh, the wonders of circular reasoning…

    The net result: Japan is committing suicide and will breed itself out of existence in a few generations unless something changes. It is too bad. I really like Japanese culture. I would like my grandkids to be able to observe it.

  33. Chad, a college friend of mine worked as an English teacher for a while in the late 1980’s. She predicted exactly this problem back then, when everyone else said Japan was going to push the US off the world stage. She described Japan as “a nation of married single mothers.” Women have menial jobs, quit when they get married to men who work 12 hours, then go drinking at bars for four more hours every day. Women end up with all the childcare and housework, and with zero respect for all that work. Naturally, when a person can live with her parents and spend all her salary on playing and have no responsibilities, no one much wants to leave for life as a domestic drudge for a man who acts like another baby on the rare occasions when he’s home and not passed out drunk.

  34. The fact is that

    a) having and raising children is a productive activity, and it can be quite rewarding.

    b) High responsability jobs may make demands that those women think excessive. I remember that I decided not to study medicine when I heard about doctors being paged even in the middle of a play. I wanted a job that I could leave behind when I walked out the door.

    c) the problem is to have society value this work, or to stop assuming that it will go on, no matter what. Let’s not forget that until recently women had a lot of children, and women buried a lot of children before age 5. Now any child that is born will likely grow up, and there is an interest in him/her growing up a certain way, and that involves an interest in the raising process (the already figured out in developed countries that the more control the woman has over her life, the more likely the children will grow up healthy and educated.)

  35. See how simple it would be to kill terrorists with kindness then call off the War on Terror?

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