Re. why women leave the pipeline?

aloisia schmid a-schmi at uiuc.edu
Sun Jan 5 17:49:19 EST 1997


Susan quoted me in a recent posting: 


> > There are no female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and there aren't
> > female
> > university presidents and there are very few female powers that be in
> > any
> > field. So we've made progress at the low end of the totem pole, but
> > not
> > at the high end. I would be interested to hear what people think is
> > the
> > next step to making progress more aggressively at higher levels.....

and then responded by saying:
> 
> If I may be a bit of a devil's advocate, a lot of this discussion has
>  implied that many women don't want to make progress at the higher
> levels--to go back to the metaphor, they've decided that the game isn't
> worth playing.  Leaving the game is of  course a perfectly valid 
> individual choice but as  I keep harping, has broader consequences to
> the community. 
> 
> Things are better in that we have won the right to play, although some
> of the rules are still  stacked up against us. Hard working women ahead
> of
> us broke down the barriers that prevented us from playing.  
> But now that we can do it, *do we want it?*   
> 
> Saying that academic science has to change BEFORE we decide to 
> play its game isn't a realistic alternative. I argue that we do not
> change institutions by going away and avoiding them, but
> by getting into the system and effecting change from inside. We have to
> fight our own battles--which means, deciding whether they are worth
> fighting.
> 
> -- susan 
> 
Well, Jeeze, Susan, I think we really disagree quite a bit more than I
would have initially thought.  Because I do not see the women who have
been saying they are leaving the pipeline as turning their backs on the
game now that they have the right to play.  I see these women saying "I
don't want to be the water boy forever.  I want a chance to get into the
game."

My feeling is that if the game were more equitable, if women felt like 
"it's all really going to be tough, it's all really demanding, but if I
work really hard the chances are good that I will be successful"---they
wouldn't be so willing to toss these choices away.  But the frustration is
over the fact that the road is really tough, that you have to work really
hard and lose almost all other rewards in life and then STILL are not
likely to be successful.  That is totally different!  I agree that women
need to stay in the pipeline, but really, at this point, I can certainly
understand getting to a  point and saying, "what the hell am I beating my
head against a wall (or glass ceiling) for?"  

That was the point I was making about cracking higher echelons.  As long
as women perceive themselves as relegated to everything lesser, their
motivation to persevere is killed.  And that is only natural.  So now the
question that I think all feminists everywhere need to be asking is, "how
do we bring about change in the areas we've been least effective in until
now?  The corporate boardroom, university administration, high, appointed
government office...."  I don't know how, but that was the question I was
hoping to introduce to this discussion.....

Anyway, I think alot of things ARE shifting-----younger men do not face
the same world as their fathers did.  But it's still a different world
than their sisters face.  And really, their sisters still have a much
tougher road to hoe.  So I am four-square against the idea that they
should be called to task for leaving.  I recognize the fact that women
NEED to stick with it to make it easier for those coming after, as those
who came before us made it for us.  I just think changes have to be made
first, in order to achieve that, and that it is unreasonable to expect
women to keep on keeping on, without those changes.  As I said, I am not
sure how to change the system to eliminate a deeply entrenched good ol'
boys network.  

I am sorry about all of these mixed metaphors....game, worlds, roads.....
but I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this....


                                             Alice



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