Tag: feminism

Gloria, Sinead and Miley Walked into a Bar…

Posted on October 31st, by Robin Schooling in On My Mind. 2 comments

And so it continues.  Miley Cyrus, who has become everyone’s favorite person to trash on the internet over the last several months, popped up this past weekend on Saturday Night Live where she did her schtick (it has become a schtick, btw) of rolling her tongue around on the side of her mouth while flashing some sort of pop star gang sign with her long lacquered fingernails.

I still don’t get it although, to be fair, I think she does.  It appears she’s moved into self-deprecating territory and, thankfully I guess, has quickly become a parody of herself.

One bit of good has arisen from all the Miley chatter though in that it has served as yet another catalyst for cultural discussions on feminism, women and the patriarchal culture in which we still live.

  • Gloria Steinem has chimed in. A few weeks ago at the Women’s Media Awards, Le Steinem, when asked if she thought some of Miley’s recent activities were setting the feminist movement back, answered “I don’t think so. I wish we didn’t have to be nude to be noticed, but given the game as it exists, women make decisions.” (Blame to society)
  • Sinead O’Connor, who learned that Miley claimed her “Wrecking Ball” video was based on O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to U” video, wrote an open letter to Miley in which she said “Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.”  (note – as of this writing, the open letter has been removed from O’Connor’s website but you can read the full letter here).  (Blame to Miley.  And sort of to society).

Now I don’t think many of us can argue that the global society in which we live is patriarchal; centuries and eons have laid that foundation. And while I’m all for making money and being a capitalist there is, at the core of capitalism, a whiff (just a whiff) of male privilege as evidenced by the fact that it’s usually a bunch of rich white men who are calling the shots.  And those are the same dudes who dictate, to a fairly large extent, what women can and/or should do.  Miley is just going along and playing the game the best she can in the world in which we live.

But should she?  Or, perhaps the better question to ask becomes “is it even a game that’s being played?”

Feminism is about providing equal opportunities for women yet it empowers men as well as women by allowing all of us to cast aside pre-conceived notions of “the way things should be.”   It allows us as women (not the men who are in power) to determine what is best for us and ensures that we all have the freedom to make our own choices.  Sometimes it takes the collective group to get those options on the table in the first place (i.e., the right to vote, have equal funding for sports) and sometimes it’s individuals making a decision for themselves about how they want to live their lives.  Shall I wear pants or dresses?  Have short or long hair? Enter the workforce or be a stay at home parent? Use an IUD or the Birth Control pill?

Individual choice.

While I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about Miley’s spank-fest on the VMA awards I fully supported her right to do it.  She sparked some discussion.  And while crappy teddy-bear costumes may not be cause for revolution one spark can start a fire – or at least keep it burning.

So yeah – if Gloria, Sinead and Miley walked into a bar I would certainly buy all of them a drink; and that’s not just a punch line.

Disclaimer:  I am no fan of Ms. Cyrus although I do admit to finding “Party in the USA” strangely intoxicating and have, on occasion, found myself singing along.


Is Feminism Still a Dirty Word?

Posted on March 28th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace. No Comments

In February, the New York Times published a feature on why gender equality stalled, drawing attention once again to the fact that despite this being the 21st century, men and women still aren’t equal in the workplace.

We know that in the US, women are paid 77 cents for every man’s dollar and that only 4.2 per cent of Fortune 500 CEO positions are held by women – and this situation is replicated across the globe. So what’s stopping women getting a fair deal? And why don’t we speak out about it more?

Here’s a thought. I read yesterday about pop star Katy Perry who, upon receiving her Billboard award in December 2012, announced, “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the power of women.” Perhaps this is part of the problem. Many people today still regard the term ‘feminist’ as something derogatory. And Katy shows that women are in many ways the worst culprits for perpetuating this myth.

When did feminism mean anything other than getting a fair deal for women? It reminded me of this excerpt from journalist Caitlin Moran’s book, How to be a Woman:

When statistics come in saying that only 29 per cent of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42 per cent of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? Did all that good sh*t GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF SURVEY?

It’s as if we’ve taken a step backwards. The word ‘feminist’ that once was short-hand for liberation, doing the right thing and creating a more equal society is now more generally associated with men-hating, making excuses and whining.

Another alarming fact is the increasing ‘lack of ambition’ in our young women. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, quotes some surprising statistics in her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. For example, in a survey of 4,000 employees at big companies, 36% of men said they want to be CEO but only 18% of women said the same. Just think of the creativity, emotional intelligence and ultimate productivity that the global economy is missing out on if this continues.

At this point, I feel it’s appropriate to take some advice from an incredibly self-aware 16 year-old called Tavi Gevinson who says in her inspiring TED talk:

One thing that can be very alienating about a misconception of feminism is that girls then think that to be feminists they have to live up to being perfectly consistent in their beliefs, never being insecure, never having doubts, having all the answers…and this is not true and actually recognizing all the contradictions I was feeling became easier once I realized that feminism was not a rulebook but a discussion, a conversation, a process.

So my final thought is that we should reclaim the word ‘feminist’ not in an aggressive way, but in a conscious way. As women, aspiring to be the CEO doesn’t mean we have to be perfect or ruthless. It’s as simple as believing we can get there and working really hard. So let’s reclaim the essence of feminism at work, start shouting a bit louder about inequality and change some of the appalling statistics about unequal pay and promotion we keep reading about.

About the author: Sue Stoneman is CEO and founding partner of learning and development agency, NKD Learning. She is a change management, employee engagement and learning and development expert. Prior to setting up NKD Learning in 2005, Stoneman spent over 20 years in a variety of PLC and private equity businesses, including British Airways, Hyundai, Barclays and Terrafirma. She has a breadth of experience as a board director, having held senior positions in Marketing and Sales, Customer Operations and HR.


{Feminism} On My Soapbox

Posted on February 20th, by Shauna Moerke in On My Mind. No Comments

Look, I don’t often get political on blogs. My views are my views and unless they intersect with HR, I don’t typically put them out there. Despite loving a good debate, and by good I mean respectful and not shouting matches, I don’t like getting up on soapboxes because I have terrible balance and will likely hurt myself and others - metaphorically and literally.

But if you read this blog, I’m sure you’d understand why articles like this, To be happy, we must admit women and men aren’t ‘equal’ just drive me batty. Let me lay it out there - I consider myself a feminist (Oh god, hide your children!).

I know that a lot of people seem to treat “feminist” like this horrible, dirty word. Vocal extremes on both sides of the argument aside, I don’t think at its heart that feminism is about forcing women out of the home, destroying families, and hating on men. That stuff ultimately is just a distraction from some serious and legitimate concerns that impact everyone in society, not just women.

Feminism has impacted:

  • Women’s right to vote
  • Women’s right to decide who and when to marry (if ever)
  • Women’s access to education
  • Women’s access to better health services, and yes, that includes contraception and abortion
  • Women’s rights and options in the work place to include career choice, protections from harassment, equal pay, promotions, training, management, etc.
  • Better protection and recognition under the law (e..g rape, abuse, right to own a business and property)
  • Women’s ability to serve in the military and now (yay!) fight in combat.

And that’s just what I could name of the top of my head.

That list isn’t about taking away anything or forcing women to do or be something that they don’t want to. That list is about choices. That list is about freedom. That list is about giving women the same rights, access, responsibility, and yes, equality under the law. It’s about giving our daughters opportunities we never had, whether they chose to take advantage of them or not.

Is it perfect? No. Will it ever be? No. But it’s something to work towards and there is a lot still left to be done, Gay rights for one, but laws don’t change people’s hearts and minds. That only happens through societal change. Everyday people, including feminists, are the ones who have gotten us to the point we are at today.

Society is facing a lot of challenges right now and it is going through some major upheaval. But no, that’s not a bad thing either. Why? Because I don’t understand how someone can look at the state and status of women in this country or across the world and think that Feminism, of all things, is what is wrong with our world today. I think it’s long past the point that we need some societal upheaval.

But the most ironic aspect of that article espousing that men and women are not, and should not, be treated equally is that if not for feminists and societal change she would have never been allowed to write that article, much less be a published author in her own right. I’d think that at least she would have to agree that is a good thing.

About the author: Shauna is an HR professional with a diverse work history, a Master’s degree, and a PHR certification. She is also a huge geek, social media advocate, and infectious giggler. Besides being a co-founder of the Women of HR she also serves as the current Ringmistress of the Carnival of HR, is the former co-host of the HR Happy Hour blogtalk radio show, and blogs at her own site as the HR Minion.


{Women of HR Unwrapped} I am Woman. See Me Work

Posted on December 18th, by Robin Schooling in Business and Workplace. Comments Off

We are unwrapping some posts from the Women of HR archives for you this holiday season. Relax, enjoy and let us know if there is a favorite of yours you'd like to see unwrapped and run again.

Several weeks ago I sat next to a very nice older couple on a plane.  I estimated their ages at as close to 80 which means they were probably born at some time in the 1930s and came of age in the 1950s.

In between watching Law and Order: SVU episodes on the airplane TV service, I was scribbling some notes on a legal pad as I reviewed some work materials I had brought along with me. This prompted the Mrs. to open up a fresh line of chit chat with me, as she, with a wide-eyed look on her face inquired,

“Do you work outside the home?”

I have to admit…I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question in my life.  Nor, quite frankly, did it ever occur to me that anyone would think it even was a question to be phrased that way.  I’ve heard “what do you do?” or “where do you work?” but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked if I worked.  And needless to say, explaining to this lovely woman precisely what Human Resources professionals do presented somewhat of a challenge.

But the conversation got me thinking about the varying perspectives we have of women in the workforce; viewpoints that are often glimpsed through a cultural or historical lens.  It’s quite probable that a young woman coming of age in the post WWII era was content (perhaps) with her life and resigned to the fact that her role was to work ‘at home.’  A woman reaching the voting age in the 1950’s was but one generation removed from even having the right to vote.  Thanks to the feminist movement, the Mrs. was able to head to the polling place and pull a lever to show that she did, indeed, “Like Ike.”

But it’s possible she doesn’t want to acknowledge or express any gratitude to feminists; that’s somewhat common. Whether first wave (primarily focused on suffrage and reproductive issues), second wave (primarily focused on equality) or third-wave (challenging and redefining ‘feminism’), feminists have often made men and women uncomfortable even while pushing for societal change that forever changed the lives of women:

  • In 1848, the first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. At the end of the convention, some radical resolutions were adopted – shockingly calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women.
  • In 1870, for the first time, the US Census counted “females engaged in each occupation.”  At that time, women comprised 15% of the workforce.
  • In 1920, the US Department of Labor formed “The Women's Bureau” which was tasked with collecting information about women in the workforce and ensuring safe working conditions.  Later that year, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was signed into law, granting women the right to vote.
  • Between the 1930s and 1950s, a number of business and school districts enacted “marriage bars” which allowed them to fire single women when they married and also allowed them to refuse to hire married women.
  • In 1961, President Kennedy established the President's Commission on the Status of Women and in 1963 the Commission issued a report documenting substantial discrimination against women in the workplace.  Specific recommendations were issued by the Commission including instituting fair hiring practices, offering paid
    maternity leave, and ensuring access to affordable child care.
  • In 1968, the US Supreme Court ruled that sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers were illegal.

I’ve thought of this conversation quite a bit lately.  It’s entirely possible that this couple have no children or grandchildren. For surely if they do have grandchildren they've found that many (dare I say most?) young women fully intend to continue their post high-school education and work outside the home.  While there are some people who yearn for a return to a society with strictly-defined gender rules based on religious reasons, I find it hard to believe that the majority of westerners don’t appreciate how the role of women has changed.

I, for one, tip my hat and raise my glass high to salute Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan and all the other brave women who paved the way.

Now let me get back to work.

About the author: Robin Schooling likes gadgets, coffee, wine and football and insists upon surrounding herself with people who are curious and have a desire to try new things.  After 20 plus years in HR, she is fully aware that HR is fun, frustrating, rewarding, maddening and important … and she loves most-every minute of it.  You can keep up with Robin at her blog HRSchoolhouse.com and on the Twitter at @RobinSchooling.

Photo credit iStockphoto

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I am Woman, See Me Work

Posted on January 11th, by Robin Schooling in Business and Workplace. 9 comments

Several weeks ago I sat next to a very nice older couple on a plane.  I estimated their ages at as close to 80 which means they were probably born at some time in the 1930s and came of age in the 1950s.

In between watching Law and Order: SVU episodes on the airplane TV service, I was scribbling some notes on a legal pad as I reviewed some work materials I had brought along with me. This prompted the Mrs. to open up a fresh line of chit chat with me, as she, with a wide-eyed look on her face inquired,

“Do you work outside the home?”

I have to admit…I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question in my life.  Nor, quite frankly, did it ever occur to me that anyone would think it even was a question to be phrased that way.  I’ve heard “what do you do?” or “where do you work?” but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked if I worked.  And needless to say, explaining to this lovely woman precisely what Human Resources professionals do presented somewhat of a challenge.

But the conversation got me thinking about the varying perspectives we have of women in the workforce; viewpoints that are often glimpsed through a cultural or historical lens.  It’s quite probable that a young woman coming of age in the post WWII era was content (perhaps) with her life and resigned to the fact that her role was to work ‘at home.’  A woman reaching the voting age in the 1950’s was but one generation removed from even having the right to vote.  Thanks to the feminist movement, the Mrs. was able to head to the polling place and pull a lever to show that she did, indeed, “Like Ike.”

But it’s possible she doesn’t want to acknowledge or express any gratitude to feminists; that’s somewhat common. Whether first wave (primarily focused on suffrage and reproductive issues), second wave (primarily focused on equality) or third-wave (challenging and redefining ‘feminism’), feminists have often made men and women uncomfortable even while pushing for societal change that forever changed the lives of women:

  • In 1848, the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. At the end of the convention, some radical resolutions were adopted – shockingly calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women.
  • In 1870, for the first time, the US Census counted “females engaged in each occupation.”  At that time, women comprised 15% of the workforce.
  • In 1920, the US Department of Labor formed “The Women’s Bureau” which was tasked with collecting information about women in the workforce and ensuring safe working conditions.  Later that year, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was signed into law, granting women the right to vote.
  • Between the 1930s and 1950s, a number of business and school districts enacted “marriage bars” which allowed them to fire single women when they married and also allowed them to refuse to hire married women.
  • In 1961, President Kennedy established the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and in 1963 the Commission issued a report documenting substantial discrimination against women in the workplace.  Specific recommendations were issued by the Commission including instituting fair hiring practices, offering paid
    maternity leave, and ensuring access to affordable child care.
  • In 1968, the US Supreme Court ruled that sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers were illegal.

I’ve thought of this conversation quite a bit lately.  It’s entirely possible that this couple have no children or grandchildren. For surely if they do have grandchildren they’ve found that many (dare I say most?) young women fully intend to continue their post high-school education and work outside the home.  While there are some people who yearn for a return to a society with strictly-defined gender rules based on religious reasons, I find it hard to believe that the majority of westerners don’t appreciate how the role of women has changed.

I, for one, tip my hat and raise my glass high to salute Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan and all the other brave women who paved the way.

Now let me get back to work.

Photo credit iStockphoto


You are a Human Resources Feminist

Posted on September 19th, by Laurie Ruettimann in Leadership. 6 comments

I like to tell my HR friends that they are feminists. They believe in equality between men and women. They believe in fairness. They teach classes on diversity and inclusion, they work for equitable compensation systems, and they believe in protecting women — and really, everyone — against discrimination.

They are all feminists.

I often hear, “Laurie, I’m not a feminist. I am not political. I don’t believe in labels.”

So let me take a step back.

We love labels in HR. We classify jobs, we label performance, and we love acronyms. If there’s a project task force that needs a name, we’re on it. And if there is someone at work who is using a name unfairly or inaccurately, we correct him or her.

So I’m here to tell you that you are a feminist. Human Resources, with its history in unions and health care and money, is inherently feminist. We are the gatekeepers of justice, of fairness, and of worker safety. While we are advocates of profitability, we are also the conscious of senior management. We have a reputation of saying no to everything, but all know that’s not true. We say no to stupid people who don’t think the rules apply to them.

You can still like men. You don’t have to be a radical activist. And I certainly hope you don’t burn your bra. But you are a feminist and you should be be proud of it.

When you claim the name, you define it on your terms. And who better to be a picture of feminism than you?


Payroll Systems and Maiden Names

Posted on October 25th, by Laurie Ruettimann in Business and Workplace. 11 comments

I am celebrating my eight-year anniversary with my husband on November 2nd.

I am about to tell you a secret I haven’t told many people.

  • I took his last name because of my company’s payroll system.

At the time, my employer outsourced payroll to ADP. I wanted to hyphenate my last name, but the payroll system only allowed for fifteen characters. With a hyphen, I was coming out at sixteen characters.

I asked my fiancé, “Do you think I should keep my last name?”

He said, “I don’t care.”

He meant it. He didn’t care. We had been together for five years, we owned a home, and the Bears were on TV on the night I tried to discuss it. My impending name change was the last thing on his mind.

Like any good HR professional, I took a survey around the office. The results were mixed and (surprisingly) gender neutral. My maiden name was clumsy. My husband’s last name was long. There were no good options beyond marrying Brad Pitt.

So I asked myself, “Why would I keep my original last name?”

  • Continuity
  • Personal Branding
  • Feminist Ideals

Then I asked myself, “Why would I take my husband’s last name?”

  • Creating a bond to a new family
  • Revitalized personal branding
  • Madonna-esque reinvention

I finally asked myself, “Why would I hyphenate?”

I had no good reasons. The stupid name was too long with a hyphen.

In the end, ADP won. There was no way I wanted an error on my paycheck, my benefits, and my W2 forms.

I took my husband’s last name, and I’m no less of a feminist because of it.

I am just a Human Resources dork.

Photo credit iStock Photo.com