Saturday, March 20, 2010

A bit disappointed

I went to a panel discussion the other day hosted by a women's group on campus that's branched out to support people in non-traditional careers. So, there were lots of women in industry, and a male nurse. The panelists came from several different industries, which was really interesting to hear about. But, overall, I still have to say that I was a little bit disappointed.

Most of the panelists were strikingly normal. Not like that's bad or anything, in fact, it's really reassuring, but I was hoping for at least one participant who really stuck out, or walked their own way. (I think) All of the panelists were married, and most of them admitted moving out here because their husbands got jobs here. Most (all?) of them had children, and talked about how they arranged to get home in time to serve supper, and how family time was really important to them (which is also a great discussion topic). But I guess what I really wanted to see was someone who didn't have children and didn't feel the need to defend that, or someone whose husband stayed home with the kids, someone who made her husband move here for a job, had a husband that was responsible for the majority of housework and childcare, or something. Not like I expected that from all the panelists, but even one panelist who did something really, really different would have been neat.

Even the nurse was pretty gender conformist. He has an MBA and now manages a bunch of hospital staff. Which is great, but I would be more curious to talk to men in nursing that interact daily with the patients and aren't at a management level. How did their family react to their decision? Do people mistreat them because they don't feel that nursing is a "manly" enough profession? I have talked to some guy friends that were considering going into nursing but voiced those concerns, and it would be neat to hear from someone who took a somewhat less "acceptable" position.

Also, some of his comments rubbed me the wrong way. One of the participants asked him how he managed his work-life balance, and he (the MBA nurse) mentioned that it used to be really easy until his wife wanted to re-enter the workplace, and he wasn't sure he liked that because it would make things harder. Gee, really, balancing children and a career can be difficult? It was just irritating because it made it sound like he had never had to consider changing his work schedule or making accommodations for his kids before, like that was strictly his wife's problem.

And while it was really great that all of the panelists were happy with their careers and felt supported, what about a panelist that could discuss what they did when crap happened to them? I've had really interesting conversations with some of the participants (and one of the panelists, at a previous event, I think) about dealing with discrimination in the workplace appropriately, which is advice that I really value. However, the only advice that they really had was, "Work hard to show that you belong there and are competent, and don't talk about shoes a lot because guys don't want to hear that."

It seemed like everyone wanted to be super sunshiney and roses on the panel. I can't tell if there really are 8 or so of them in non-traditional careers, from many different backgrounds, that have never had a bad experience at work, or if they have and just wanted to sound optimistic, or if they think that they should just deal with whatever happens to them, or what.

To sum up my feelings about the discussion, I'm just a bit disappointed because I felt like the most radical person there. And, I suppose I was expecting more stories about people overcoming challenges and fighting against norms and expectations. I'll just have to stick to calling my grandma for inspiration :) Or I can call the other grandma and have her tell me to stop wasting my money on an education and start having babies already. Wooo.

1 comment:

FrauTech said...

Maybe the non-traditional folks felt discouraged from going. I remember they recently asked for a female engineering student from my college to speak at an event at a local community college. But I felt like I didn't fit the mold of what they were looking for as I wouldn't know much about the campus social life etc. So perhaps there are a lot of non-traditional women out there, they just don't get invited to these sorts of things or don't feel like they'd be good role models.

I tend to veer off on tangents. Pick your tangent from the menu on the right.